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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 04 - Imperial Antiquity
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Persian Empire
Persia Proper
Origin of the Persians
The Religion of the Iranians
Persian Civilization
Persian rulers
Youth and education of Cyrus
Political Union of Persia and Media
The Median Empire
Early Conquests of Cyrus
The Lydian Empire
Croesus, King of Lydia
War between Croesus and Cyrus
Fate of Croesus
Conquest of the Ionian Cities
Conquest of Babylon
Assyria and Babylonia
Subsequent conquests of Cyrus
His kindness to the Jews
Character of Cyrus
Cambyses; Darius Hystaspes
Fall of the Persian Empire



Caesar an instrument of Providence
His family and person
Early manhood; marriage; profession; ambition
Curule magistrates; the Roman Senate
Only rich men who control elections ordinarily elected
Venality of the people
Caesar borrows money to bribe the people
Elected Quaestor
Gains a seat in the Senate
Second marriage, with a cousin of Pompey
Caesar made Pontifex Maximus; elected Praetor
Sent to Spain; military services in Spain
Elected Consul; his reforms; Leges Juliae
Opposition of the Aristocracy
Assigned to the province of Gaul
His victories over the Gauls and Germans
Character of the races he subdued
Amazing difficulties of his campaigns
Reluctance of the Senate to give him the customary honor
Jealousy of the nobles; hostility between them and Caesar
The Aristocracy unfit to govern; their habits and manners
They call Pompey to their aid
Neither Pompey nor Caesar will disband his forces; Caesar recalled
Caesar marches on Home; crosses the Rubicon
Ultimate ends of Caesar; the civil war
Pompey's incapacity and indecision; flies to Brundusi
Caesar defeats Pompey's generals in Spain
Dictatorship of Caesar
Battle of Pharsalia
Death of Pompey in Egypt
Battles of Thapsus and of Munda
They result in Caesar's supremacy
His services as Emperor
His habits and character
His assassination,--its consequences
Causes of Imperialism,--its supposed necessity when Caesar
arose; public rebuke of Caesar by Cicero
An historical puzzle



Remarkable character of Marcus Aurelius
His parentage and education
Adopted by Antoninus Pius
Subdues the barbarians of Germany
Consequences of the German Wars
Mistakes of Marcus Aurelius; Commodus
Persecutions of the Christians
The "Meditations,"--their sublime Stoicism
Epictetus,--the influence of his writings
Style and value of the "Meditations"
Necessities of the Empire
Its prosperity under the Antonines; external glories
Its internal weakness; seeds of ruin
Gibbon controverted by Marcus Aurelius



Constantine and Diocletian
Influence of martyrdoms
Influence of Asceticism,--its fierce protest
Rise of Constantine
His civil wars for the supremacy of the Roman world
The rival Emperors and their fate: Maximinian, Galerius,
  Maxentius, Maximin, Licinius
Constantine sole Emperor over the West and East
Foundation of Constantinople,--its great advantage
The pomp and ceremony of the imperial Court
Crimes of Constantine; his virtues
Conversion of Constantine
His Christian legislation; edict of Toleration
Patronage of the Clergy; union of Church and State
Council of Nice
Theological discussion
Doctrine of the Trinity
Athanasius and Arius
The Nicene Creed
Effect of philosophical discussions on theological truths
Constantine's work; the uniting of Church with State
Death of Constantine
His character and services



Female friendship
Paganism unfavorable to friendship
Character of Jewish women
Great Pagan women
Paula, her early life
Her conversion to Christianity
Her asceticism
Asceticism the result of circumstances
Virtues of Paula
Her illustrious friends
Saint Jerome and his great attainments
His friendship with Paula
His social influence at Rome
His treatment of women
Vanity of mere worldly friendship
^Esthetic mission of woman
Elements of permanent friendship
Necessity of social equality
Illustrious friendships
Congenial tastes in friendship
Necessity of Christian graces
Sympathy as radiating from the Cross
Necessity of some common end in friendship
The extension of monastic life
Virtues of early monastic life
Paula and Jerome seek its retreats
Their residence in Palestine
Their travels in the East
Their illustrious visitors
Peculiarities of their friendship
Death of Paula
Her character and fame
Elevation of woman by friendship



The power of the Pulpit
Eloquence always a power
The superiority of the Christian themes to those of Pagan antiquity
Sadness of the great Pagan orators
Cheerfulness of the Christian preachers
Society of the times
Chrysostom's conversion, and life in retirement
Life at Antioch
Characteristics of his eloquence; his popularity as orator
His influence
Shelters Antioch from the wrath of Theodosius
Power and responsibility of the clergy
Transferred to Constantinople, as Patriarch of the East
His sermons, and their effect at Court
Quarrel with Eutropius
Envy of Theophilus of Alexandria
Council of the Oaks; condemnation to exile
Sustained by the people; recalled
Wrath of the Empress
Exile of Chrysostom
His literary labors in exile
His more remote exile, and death
His fame and influence



Dignity of the Episcopal office in the early Church
Growth of Episcopal authority,--its causes
The See of Milan; election of Ambrose as Archbishop
His early life and character; his great ability
Change in his life after consecration
His conservation of the Faith
Persecution of the Manicheans
Opposition to the Arians
His enemies; Faustina
Quarrel with the Empress
Establishment of Spiritual Authority
Opposition to Temporal Power
Ambrose retires to his cathedral; Ambrosian chant
Rebellion of Soldiers; triumph of Ambrose
Sent as Ambassador to Maximus; his intrepidity
His rebuke of Theodosius; penance of the Emperor
Fidelity and ability of Ambrose as Bishop
His private virtues
His influence on succeeding ages



Lofty position of Augustine in the Church
Parentage and birth
Education and youthful follies
Influence of the Manicheans on him
Teacher of rhetoric
Visits Rome
Teaches rhetoric at Milan
Influence of Ambrose on him
Conversion; Christian experience
Retreat to Lake Como
Death of Monica his mother
Return to Africa
Made Bishop of Hippo; his influence as Bishop
His greatness as a theologian; his vast studies
Contest with Manicheans,--their character and teachings
Controversy with the Donatists,--their peculiarities
Tracts: Unity of the Church and Religious Toleration
Contest with the Pelagians: Pelagius and Celestius
Principles of Pelagianism
Doctrines of Augustine: Grace; Predestination; Sovereignty of God;
  Servitude of the Will
Results of the Pelagian controversy
Other writings of Augustine: "The City of God;" Soliloquies; Sermons
Death and character
Eulogists of Augustine
His posthumous influence



The mission of Theodosius
General sense of security in the Roman world
The Romans awake from their delusion
Incursions of the Goths
Battle of Adrianople; death of Valens
Necessity for a great deliverer to arise; Theodosius
The Goths,--their characteristics and history
Elevation of Theodosius as Associate Emperor
He conciliates the Goths, and permits them to settle in the Empire
Revolt of Maximus against Gratian; death of Gratian
Theodosius marches against Maximus and subdues him
Revolt of Arbogastes,--his usurpation
Victories of Theodosius over all his rivals; the Empire once
  more united under a single man
Reforms of Theodosius; his jurisprudence
Patronage of the clergy and dignity of great ecclesiastics
Theodosius persecutes the Arians
Extinguishes Paganism and closes the temples
Cements the union of Church with State
Faults and errors of Theodosius; massacre of Thessalonica
Death of Theodosius
Division of the Empire between his two sons
Renewed incursions of the Goths,--Alaric; Stilicho
Fall of Rome; Genseric and the Vandals
Second sack of Rome
Reflections on the Fall of the Western Empire



Leo the Great,--founder of the Catholic Empire
General aim of the Catholic Church
The Church the guardian of spiritual principles
Theocratic aspirations of the Popes
Origin of ecclesiastical power; the early Popes
Primacy of the Bishop of Rome
Necessity for some higher claim after the fall of Rome
Early life of Leo
Elevation to the Papacy; his measures; his writings
His persecution of the Manicheans
Conservation of the Faith by Leo
Intercession with the barbaric kings; Leo's intrepidity
Desolation of Rome
Designs and thoughts of Leo
The _jus divinum_ principle; state of Rome when this principle
  was advocated
Its apparent necessity
The influence of arrogant pretensions on the barbarians
They are indorsed by the Emperor
The government of Leo
The central power of the Papacy
Unity of the Church
No rules of government laid down in the Scriptures
Governments the result of circumstances
The Papal government the need of the Middle Ages
The Papacy in its best period
Greatness of Leo's character and aims
Fidelity of his early successors, and perversions of later Popes



The Conversion of Paula by St. Jerome.
_After the painting by L. Alma-Tadema_.

Archery Practice of a Persian King.
_After the painting by F.A. Bridgman_.

Tomyris Plunges the Head of the Dead Cyrus into a Vessel of Blood.
_After the painting by A. Zick_.

Julius Caesar.
_From the bust in the National Museum, Rome_.

Surrender of Vercingetorix, the Last Chief of Gaul.
_After the painting by Henri Motte_.

Marcus Aurelius.
_From a photograph of the statue at the Capitol, Rome_.

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Arena.
_After the painting by G. Mantegazza_.

St. Jerome in His Cell.
_After the painting by J.L. Gérôme_.

St. Chrysostom Condemns the Vices of the Empress Eudoxia.
_After the painting by Jean Paul Laurens_.

St. Ambrose Refuses the Emperor Theodosius Admittance to His Church.
_After the painting by Gebhart Fügel_.

St. Augustine and His Mother.
_After the painting by Ary Scheffer_.

Invasion of the Goths into the Roman Empire.
_After the painting by O. Fritsche_.

Invasion of the Huns into Italy.
_After the painting by V. Checa_.


       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

559-529 B.C.


One of the most prominent and romantic characters in the history of the
Oriental world, before its conquest by Alexander of Macedon, is Cyrus
the Great; not as a sage or prophet, not as the founder of new religious
systems, not even as a law-giver, but as the founder and organizer of
the greatest empire the world has seen, next to that of the Romans. The
territory over which Cyrus bore rule extended nearly three thousand
miles from east to west, and fifteen hundred miles from north to south,
embracing the principal nations known to antiquity, so that he was
really a king of kings. He was practically the last of the great Asiatic
emperors, absorbing in his dominions those acquired by the Assyrians,
the Babylonians, and the Lydians. He was also the first who brought Asia
into intimate contact with Europe and its influences, and thus may be
regarded as the link between the old Oriental world and the Greek

It is to be regretted that so little is really known of the Persian
hero, both in the matter of events and also of exact dates, since
chronologists differ, and can only approximate to the truth in their
calculations. In this lecture, which is in some respects an introduction
to those that will follow on the heroes and sages of Greek, Roman, and
Christian antiquity, it is of more importance to present Oriental
countries and institutions than any particular character, interesting as
he may be,--especially since as to biography one is obliged to sift
historical facts from a great mass of fables and speculations.

Neither Herodotus, Xenophon, nor Ctesias satisfy us as to the real life
and character of Cyrus. This renowned name represents, however, the
Persian power, the last of the great monarchies that ruled the Oriental
world until its conquest by the Greeks. Persia came suddenly into
prominence in the middle of the seventh century before Christ. Prior to
this time it was comparatively unknown and unimportant, and was one of
the dependent provinces of Media, whose religion, language, and customs
were not very dissimilar to its own.

Persia was a small, rocky, hilly, arid country about three hundred miles
long by two hundred and fifty wide, situated south of Media, having the
Persian Gulf as its southern boundary, the Zagros Mountains on the west
separating it from Babylonia, and a great and almost impassable desert
on the east, so that it was easily defended. Its population was composed
of hardy, warlike, and religious people, condemned to poverty and
incessant toil by the difficulty of getting a living on sterile and
unproductive hills, except in a few favored localities. The climate was
warm in summer and cold in winter, but on the whole more temperate than
might be supposed from a region situated so near the tropics,--between
the twenty-fifth and thirtieth degrees of latitude. It was an elevated
country, more than three thousand feet above the sea, and was favorable
to the cultivation of the fruits and flowers that have ever been most
prized, those cereals which constitute the ordinary food of man growing
in abundance if sufficient labor were spent on their cultivation,
reminding us of Switzerland and New England. But vigilance and incessant
toil were necessary, such as are only found among a hardy and courageous
peasantry, turning easily from agricultural labors to the fatigues and
dangers of war. The real wealth of the country was in the flocks and
herds that browsed in the valleys and plains. Game of all kinds was
abundant, so that the people were unusually fond of the pleasures of the
chase; and as they were temperate, inured to exposure, frugal, and
adventurous, they made excellent soldiers. Nor did they ever as a nation
lose their warlike qualities,--it being only the rich and powerful among
them who learned the vices of the nations they subdued, and became
addicted to luxury, indolence, and self-indulgence. Before the conquest
of Media the whole nation was distinguished for temperance, frugality,
and bravery. According to Herodotus, the Persians were especially
instructed in three things,--"to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the
truth." Their moral virtues were as conspicuous as their warlike
qualities. They were so poor that their ordinary dress was of leather.
They could boast of no large city, like the Median Ecbatana, or like
Babylon,--Pasargadae, their ancient capital, being comparatively small
and deficient in architectural monuments. The people lived chiefly in
villages and hamlets, and were governed, like the Israelites under the
Judges, by independent chieftains, none of whom attained the rank and
power of kings until about one hundred years before the birth of Cyrus.
These pastoral and hunting people, frugal from necessity, brave from
exposure, industrious from the difficulty of subsisting in a dry and
barren country, for the most sort were just such a race as furnished a
noble material for the foundation of a great empire.

Whence came this honest, truthful, thrifty race? It is generally
admitted that it was a branch of the great Aryan family, whose original
settlements are supposed to have been on the high table-lands of Central
Asia east of the Caspian Sea, probably in Bactria. They emigrated from
that dreary and inhospitable country after Zoroaster had proclaimed his
doctrines, after the sacred hymns called the Gathas were sung, perhaps
even after the Zend-Avesta or sacred writings of the Zoroastrian priests
had been begun,--conquering or driving away Turanian tribes, and
migrating to the southwest in search of more fruitful fields and fertile
valleys, they found a region which has ever since borne a
name--Iran--that evidently commemorated the proud title of the Aryan
race. And this great movement took place about the time that another
branch of their race also migrated southeastwardly to the valleys of the
Indus. The Persians and the Hindus therefore had common ancestors,--the
same indeed, as those of the Greeks, Romans, Sclavonians, Celts, and
Teutons, who migrated to the northwest and settled in Europe. The Aryans
in all their branches were the noblest of the primitive races, and have
in their later developments produced the highest civilization ever
attained. They all had similar elements of character, especially love of
personal independence, respect for woman, and a religious tendency of
mind. We see a considerable similarity of habits and customs between
the Teutonic races of Germany and Scandinavia and the early inhabitants
of Persia, as well as great affinity in language. All branches of the
Aryan family have been warlike and adventurous, if we may except the
Hindus, who were subjected to different influences,--especially of
climate, which enervated their bodies if it did not weaken their minds.

When the migration of the Iranians took place it is difficult to
determine, but probably between fifteen hundred and two thousand years
before our era, although it may have been even five hundred years
earlier than that. All theories as to their movements before their
authentic history begins are based on conjecture and speculation, which
it is not profitable to pursue, since we can settle nothing in the
present state of our knowledge.

It is very singular that the Iranians should have had, after their
migrations and settlements, religious ideas and systems so different
from those of the Hindus, considering that they had common ancestors.
The Iranians, including the Medes as well as Persians, accepted
Zoroaster as their prophet and teacher, and the Zend-Avesta as their
sacred books, and worshipped one Supreme Deity, whom they called
Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd),--the Lord Omniscient,--and thus were monotheists;
while the Hindus were practically poly-theists, governed by a
sacerdotal caste, who imposed gloomy austerities and sacrifices,
although it would seem that the older Vedistic hymns of the Hindus were
theistic in spirit. The Magi--the priests of the Iranians--differed
widely in their religious views from the Brahmans, inculcating a higher
morality and a loftier theological creed, worshipping the Supreme Being
without temples or shrines or images, although their religion ultimately
degenerated into a worship of the powers of Nature, as the recognition
of Mithra the sun-god and the mysterious fire-altars would seem to
indicate. But even in spite of the corruptions introduced by the Magi
when they became a powerful sacerdotal body, their doctrine remained
purer and more elevated than the religions of the surrounding nations.

While the Iranians worshipped a supreme deity of goodness, they also
recognized a supreme deity of evil, both ruling the world--in perpetual
conflict--by unnumbered angels, good and evil; but the final triumph of
the good was a conspicuous article of their faith. In close logical
connection with this recognition of a supreme power in the universe was
the belief of a future state and of future rewards and punishments,
without which belief there can be, in my opinion, no high morality, as
men are constituted.

In process of time the priests of the Zoroastrian faith became unduly
powerful, and enslaved the people by many superstitions, such as the
multiplication of rites and ceremonies and the interpretation of dreams
and omens. They united spiritual with temporal authority, as a powerful
priesthood is apt to do,--a fact which the Christian priesthood of the
Middle Ages made evident in the Occidental world.

In the time of Cyrus the Magi had become a sort of sacerdotal caste.
They were the trusted ministers of kings, and exercised a controlling
influence over the people. They assumed a stately air, wore white and
flowing robes, and were adept in the arts of sorcery and magic. They
were even consulted by kings and chieftains, as if they possessed
prophetic power. They were a picturesque body of men, with their mystic
wands, their impressive robes, their tall caps, appealing by their long
incantations and frequent ceremonies and prayers to the eye and to the
ear. "Pure Zoroastrianism was too spiritual to coalesce readily with
Oriental luxury and magnificence when the Persians were rulers of a vast
empire, but Magism furnished a hierarchy to support the throne and add
splendor and dignity to the court, while it blended easily with
previous creeds."

In material civilization the Medes and Persians were inferior to the
Babylonians and Egyptians, and immeasurably behind the Greeks and
Romans. Their architecture was not so imposing as that of the Egyptians
and Babylonians; it had no striking originality, and it was only in the
palaces of great monarchs that anything approached magnificence. Still,
there were famous palaces at Ecbatana, Susa, and Persepolis, raised on
lofty platforms, reached by grand staircases, and ornamented with
elaborate pillars. The most splendid of these were erected after the
time of Cyrus, by Darius and Xerxes, decorated with carpets, hangings,
and golden ornaments. The halls of their palaces were of great size and
imposing effect. Next to palaces, the most remarkable buildings were the
tombs of kings; but we have no remains of marble statues or metal
castings or ivory carvings, not even of potteries, which at that time in
other countries were common and beautiful. The gems and signet rings
which the Persians engraved possessed much merit, and on them were
wrought with great skill the figures of men and animals; but the nearest
approach to sculpture were the figures of colossal bulls set to guard
the portals of palaces, and these were probably borrowed from the

Nor were the Persians celebrated for their textile fabrics and dyes. "So
long as the carpets of Babylon, the shawls of India, the fine linen of
Egypt, and the coverlets of Damascus poured continually into Persia in
the way of tribute and gifts, there was no stimulus to manufacture." The
same may be said of the ornamental metal-work of the Greeks, and the
glass manufacture of the Phoenicians. The Persians were soldiers, and
gloried in being so, to the disdain of much that civilization has
ever valued.

It may as well be here said that the Iranians, both Medes and Persians,
were acquainted with the art of writing. Harpagus sent a letter to Cyrus
concealed in the belly of a hare, and Darius signed a decree which his
nobles presented to him in writing. In common with the Babylonians they
used the same alphabetic system, though their languages were
unlike,--namely, the cuneiform or arrow-head or wedge-shaped characters,
as seen in the celebrated inscriptions of Darius on the side of a high
rock thirty feet from the ground. We cannot determine whether the Medes
and Persians brought their alphabet from their original settlements in
Central Asia, or derived it from the Turanian and Semitic nations with
which they came in contact. In spite of their knowledge of writing,
however, they produced no literature of any account, and of science they
were completely ignorant. They made few improvements even in military
weapons, the chief of which, as among all the nations of antiquity, were
the bow, the spear, and the sword. They were skilful horsemen, and made
use of chariots of war. Their great occupation, aside from agriculture,
was hunting, in which they were trained by exposure for war. They were
born to conquer and rule, like the Romans, and cared for little except
the warlike virtues.

Such were the Persians and the rugged country in which they lived, with
their courage and fortitude, their love of freedom, their patriotism,
their abhorrence of lies, their self-respect allied with pride, their
temperance and frugality, forming a noble material for empire and
dominion when the time came for the old monarchies to fall into their
hands,--the last and greatest of all the races that had ruled the
Oriental world, and kindred in their remote ancestry with those European
conquerors who laid the foundation of modern civilization.

Of these Persians Cyrus was the type-man, combining in himself all that
was admirable in his countrymen, and making so strong an impression on
the Greeks that he is presented by their historians as an ideal prince,
invested with all those virtues which the mediaeval romance-writers have
ascribed to the knights of chivalry.

The Persians were ruled by independent chieftains, or petty kings, who
acknowledged fealty to Media; so that Persia was really a province of
Media, as Burgundy was of France in the Middle Ages, and as Babylonia at
one period was of Assyria. The most prominent of these chieftains or
princes was Achaemenes, who is regarded as the founder of the Persian
monarchy. To this royal family of the Achaemenidae Cyrus belonged. His
father Cambyses, called by some a satrap and by others a king, married,
according to Herodotus, a daughter of Astyages, the last of the
Median monarchs.

The youth and education of Cyrus are invested with poetic interest by
both Herodotus and Xenophon, but their narratives have no historical
authority in the eyes of critics, any more than Livy's painting of
Romulus and Remus: they belong to the realm of romance rather than
authentic history. Nevertheless the legend of Cyrus is beautiful, and
has been repeated by all succeeding historians.

According to this legend, Astyages--a luxurious and superstitious
monarch, without the warlike virtues of his father, who had really built
up the Median empire--had a dream that troubled him, which being
interpreted by the Magi, priests of the national religion, was to the
effect that his daughter Mandanê (for he had no legitimate son) would be
married to a prince whose heir should seize the supreme power of Media.
To prevent this, he married her to a prince beneath her rank, for whom
he felt no fear,--Cambyses, the chief governor or king of Persia, who
ruled a territory to the South, about one fifth the size of Media, and
which practically was a dependent province. Another dream which alarmed
Astyages still further, in spite of his precaution, induced him to send
for his daughter, so that having her in his power he might easily
destroy her offspring. As soon as Cyrus was born therefore in the royal
palace at Ecbatana, the king intrusted the infant prince to one of the
principal officers of his court, named Harpagus, with peremptory orders
to destroy him. Harpagus, although he professed unconditional obedience
to his monarch, had scruples about taking the life of one so near the
throne, the grandson of the king and presumptive heir of the monarchy.
So he, in turn, intrusted the royal infant to the care of a herdsman, in
whom he had implicit confidence, with orders to kill him. The herdsman
had a tender-hearted and conscientious wife who had just given birth to
a dead child, and she persuaded her husband--for even in Media women
virtually ruled, as they do everywhere, if they have tact--to substitute
the dead child for the living one, deck it out in the royal costume, and
expose it to wild beasts. This was done, and Cyrus remained the supposed
child of the shepherd. The secret was well kept for ten years, and both
Astyages and Harpagus supposed that Cyrus was slain.

Cyrus meanwhile grew up among the mountains, a hardy and beautiful boy,
exposed to heat and cold, hunger and fatigue, and thus was early inured
to danger and hardship. Added to personal beauty was remarkable courage,
frankness, and brightness, so that he took the lead of other boys in
their amusements. One day they played king, and Cyrus was chosen to
represent royalty, which he acted so literally as to beat the son of a
Median nobleman for disobedience. The indignant and angry father
complained at once to the king, and Astyages sent for the herdsman and
his supposed son to attend him in his palace. When the two mountaineers
were ushered into the royal presence, Astyages was so struck with the
beauty, wit, and boldness of the boy that he made earnest inquiries of
the herdsman, who was forced to tell the truth, and confessed that the
youth was not his son, but had been put into his hands by Harpagus with
orders to destroy him. The royal origin of Cyrus was now apparent, and
the king sent for Harpagus, who corroborated the statement of the
herdsman. Astyages dissembled his wrath, as Oriental monarchs can, who
are trained to dissimulation, and the only punishment he inflicted on
Harpagus was to set before him at a banquet a dish made of the arms and
legs of a dead infant. This the courtier in turn professed to relish,
but henceforth became the secret and implacable enemy of the king.

Herodotus tells us that Astyages took the boy, unmistakably his grandson
and heir, to his palace to be educated according to his rank. Cyrus was
now brought up with every honor and the greatest care, taught to hunt
and ride and shoot with the bow like the highest nobles. He soon
distinguished himself for his feats in horsemanship and skill in hunting
wild animals, winning universal admiration, and disarming envy by his
tact, amiability, and generosity, which were as marked as his
intellectual brilliancy,--being altogether a model of reproachless

For some reason, however, the fears and jealousy of Astyages were
renewed, and Cyrus was sent to his father in Persia with costly gifts.
Possibly he was recalled by Cambyses himself, for a father by all the
Eastern codes had a right to the person of his son.

No sooner was Cyrus established in Persia,--a country which it would
seem he had never before seen,--than he was sought by the discontented
Persians to head a revolt against their masters, and he availed himself
of the disaffection of Harpagus, the most influential of the Median
noblemen, for the dethronement of his grandfather. Persia arose in
rebellion against Media. A war ensued, and in a battle between the
conflicting forces Astyages was defeated and taken prisoner, but was
kindly treated by his magnanimous conqueror. This battle ended the
Median ascendency, and Cyrus became the monarch of both Media
and Persia.

Since the Medes belonged to the same Aryan family as the Persians, and
had the same language, religion, and institutions, with slight
differences, and lived among the mountains exposed to an uncongenial
climate with extremes of heat and cold, and were doomed to hard and
incessant labors for a subsistence, and were therefore--that is, the
ordinary people--frugal, industrious, and temperate, it will be seen
that what we have said of Persia equally applies to Media, except the
possession by the latter of political power as wielded by the sovereign
of a larger State.

Before a central power was established in Media, the country had
been--as in all nations in their formative state--ruled by chieftains,
who acknowledged as their supreme lord the King of Assyria, who reigned
in Nineveh. Among these chieftains was a remarkable man called Deioces,
so upright and able that he was elected king. Deioces reigned
fifty-three years wisely and well, bequeathing the kingdom he had
founded to his son Phraortes, under whom Media became independent of
Assyria. His son and successor Cyaxares, who died 593 B.C., was a
successful warrior and conqueror, and was the founder of Median
greatness. With the assistance of Nabopolassar, a Babylonian general who
had also revolted against the Assyrian monarch, Cyaxares succeeded,
after repeated failures, in taking Nineveh and destroying the great
Assyrian Empire which had ruled the Eastern world for several centuries.
The northern and eastern provinces were annexed to Media, while the
Babylonian valley of the Euphrates in the south fell to the share of
Nabopolassar, who established the Babylonian ascendency. This in its
turn was greatly augmented by his son Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most
famous conquerors of antiquity, whose empire became more extensive even
than the Assyrian. He reigned in Babylon with unparalleled splendor, and
made his capital the wonder and the admiration of the world, enriching
and ornamenting it with palaces, temples, and hanging gardens, and
strengthening its defences to such a marvellous degree that it was
deemed impregnable.

Cyaxares the Median meanwhile raised up in Ecbatana a rival power to
that of Babylon, although he devoted himself to warlike expeditions more
than to the adornment of his capital. He penetrated with his invincible
troops as far to the west as Lydia in Asia Minor, then ruled by the
father of Croesus, and thus became known to the Ionian cities which the
Greeks had colonized. After a brilliant reign, Cyaxares transmitted his
empire to an unworthy son,--Astyages, the grandfather of Cyrus, whose
loss of the throne has been already related. With Astyages perished the
Median Empire, which had lasted only about one hundred years, and Media
was incorporated with Persia. Henceforth the Medes and Persians are
spoken of as virtually one nation, similar in religion and customs, and
furnishing equally the best cavalry in the world. Under Cyrus they
became the ascendent power in Asia, and maintained their ascendency
until their conquest by Alexander. The union between Media and Persia
was probably as complete as that between Burgundy and France, or that of
Scotland with England. Indeed, Media now became the residence of the
Persian kings, whose palaces at Ecbatana, Susa, and Persepolis nearly
rivalled those of Babylon. Even modern Persia comprises the
ancient Media.

The reign of Cyrus properly begins with the conquest of Media, or rather
its union with Persia, B.C. 549. We know, however, but little of the
career of Cyrus after he became monarch of both Persia and Media, until
he was forty years of age. He was probably engaged in the conquest of
various barbaric hordes before his memorable Lydian campaign. But we are
in ignorance of his most active years, when he was exposed to the
greatest dangers and hardships, and when he became perfected in the
military art, as in the case of Caesar amid the marshes and forests of
Gaul and Belgium. The fame of Caesar rests as much on his conquests of
the Celtic barbarians of Europe as on his conflict with Pompey; but
whether Cyrus obtained military fame or not in his wars against the
Turanians, he doubtless proved himself a benefactor to humanity more in
arresting the tide of Scythian invasion than by those conquests which
have given him immortality.

When Cyrus had cemented his empire by the conquest of the Turanian
nations, especially those that dwelt between the Caspian and Black seas,
his attention was drawn to Lydia, the most powerful kingdom of western
Asia, whose monarch, Croesus, reigned at Sardis in Oriental
magnificence. Lydia was not much known to distant States until the reign
of Gyges, about 716 B.C., who made war on the Dorian and Ionian Greek
colonies on the coast of Asia Minor, the chief of which were Miletus,
Smyrna, Colophon, and Ephesus. His successor Ardys continued this
warfare, but was obliged to desist because of an invasion of the
Cimmerians,--barbarians from beyond the Caucasus, driven away from
their homes by the Scythians. His grandson Alyattes, greatest of the
Lydian monarchs, succeeded in expelling the Cimmerians from Lydia. After
subduing some of the maritime cities of Asia Minor, this monarch faced
the Medes, who had advanced their empire to the river Halys, the eastern
boundary of Lydia, which flows northwardly into the Euxine. For five
years Alyattes fought the Medes under Cyaxares with varying success, and
the war ended by the marriage of the daughter of the Lydian king with
Astyages. After this, Alyattes reigned forty-three years, and was buried
in a tomb whose magnificence was little short of the grandest of the
Egyptian monuments.

Croesus, his son, entered upon a career which reminds us of Solomon, the
inheritor of the conquests of David. Like the Jewish monarch, Croesus
was rich, luxurious, and intellectual. His wealth, obtained chiefly from
the mines of his kingdom, was a marvel to the Greeks. His capital Sardis
became the largest in western Asia, and one of the most luxurious cities
known to antiquity, whither resorted travellers from all parts of the
world, attracted by the magnificence of the court, among whom was Solon
himself, the great Athenian law-giver. Croesus continued the warfare on
the Greek cities of Asia, and forced them to become his tributaries. He
brought under his sway most of the nations to the west of the Halys, and
though never so great a warrior as his father, he became very powerful.
He was as generous in his gifts as he was magnificent in his tastes. His
offerings to the oracle at Delphi were unprecedented in their value,
when he sought advice as to the wisdom of engaging in war with Cyrus. Of
the three great Asian empires, Croesus now saw his father's ally,
Babylon, under a weak and dissolute ruler; Media, absorbed into Persia
under the power of a valiant and successful conqueror; and his own
empire, Lydia, threatened with attack by the growing ambition of Persia.
Herodotus says he "was led to consider whether it were possible to check
the growing power of that people."

It was the misfortune of Croesus to overrate his strength,--an error
often seen in the career of fortunate men, especially those who enter
upon a great inheritance. It does not appear that Croesus desired war
with Persia, but he did not dread it, and felt confident that he could
overcome a man whose chief conquests had been made over barbarians.
Perhaps he felt the necessity of contending with Cyrus before that
warrior's victories and prestige should become overwhelming, for the
Persian monarch obviously aimed at absorbing all Asia in his empire; at
any rate, when informed by the oracle at Delphi that if he fought with
the Persians he would destroy a mighty empire, Croesus interpreted the
response in his own favor.

Croesus made great preparations for the approaching contest, which was
to settle the destiny of Asia Minor. The Greeks were on his side, for
they feared the Persians more than they did the Lydians. With the aid of
Sparta, the most warlike of the Grecian States, he advanced to meet the
Persian conqueror, not however without the expostulation of some of his
wisest counsellors. One of them, according to Herodotus, ventured to
address him with these plain words: "Thou art about, O King, to make war
against men who wear leather trousers and other garments of leather; who
feed not on what they like, but on what they can get from a soil which
is sterile and unfriendly; who do not indulge in wine, but drink water;
who possess no figs, nor anything which is good to eat. If, then, thou
conquerest them, what canst thou get from them, seeing that they have
nothing at all? But if they conquer thee, consider how much that is
precious thou wilt lose; if they once get a taste of our pleasant
things, they will keep such a hold of them that we never shall be able
to make them lose their grasp." We cannot consider Croesus as utterly
infatuated in not taking this advice, since war had become inevitable,
It was "either anvil or hammer," as between France and Prussia in
1870-72,--as between all great powers that accept the fortune of war,
ever uncertain in its results. The only question seems to have been who
should first take the offensive in a war that had been long preparing,
and in which defeat would be followed by the utter ruin of the
defeated party.

The Lydians began the attack by crossing the Halys and entering the
enemy's territory. The first battle took place at Pteria in Cappadocia,
near Sinope on the Euxine, but was indecisive. Both parties fought
bravely, and the slaughter on both sides was dreadful, the Lydians being
the most numerous, and the Persians the most highly disciplined. After
the battle of Pteria, Croesus withdrew his army to his own territories
and retired upon his capital, with a view of augmenting his forces;
while Cyrus, with the instinct of a conqueror, ventured to cross the
Halys in pursuit, and to march rapidly on Sardis before the enemy could
collect another army. Prompt decision and celerity of movement
characterize all successful warriors, and here it was that Cyrus showed
his military genius. Before Croesus was fully prepared for another
fight, Cyrus was at the gates of Sardis. But the Lydian king rallied
what forces he could, and led them out to battle. The Lydians were
superior in cavalry; seeing which, Cyrus, with that fertility of
resource which marked his whole career, collected together the camels
which transported his baggage and provisions, and placed them in the
front of his array, since the horse, according to Herodotus, has a
natural dread of the camel and cannot abide his sight or his smell. The
result was as Cyrus calculated; the cavalry of the Lydians turned round
and galloped away. The Lydians fought bravely, but were driven within
the walls of their capital. Cyrus vigorously prosecuted the siege, which
lasted only fourteen days, since an attack was made on the side of the
city which was undefended, and which was supposed to be impregnable and
unassailable. The proud city fell by assault, and was given up to
plunder. Croesus himself was taken alive, after a reign of fourteen
years, and the mighty Lydia became a Persian province.

There is something unusually touching in the fate of Croesus after so
great prosperity. Saved by Cyrus from an ignominious and painful death,
such as the barbarous customs of war then made common, the unhappy
Lydian monarch became, it is said, the friend and admirer of the
Conqueror, and was present in his future expeditions, and even proved a
wise and faithful counsellor. If some proud monarchs by the fortune of
war have fallen suddenly from as lofty an eminence as that of Croesus,
it is certain that few have yielded with nobler submission than he to
the decrees of fate.

The fall of Sardis,--B.C. 546, according to Grote,--was followed by the
submission of all the States that were dependent on Lydia. Even the
Grecian colonies in Asia Minor were annexed to the Persian Empire.

The conquest of the Ionian cities, first by Croesus and then by Cyrus,
was attended with important political consequences. Before the time of
Croesus the Greek cities of Asia were independent. Had they combined
together for offence and defence, with the assistance of Sparta and
Athens, they might have resisted the attacks of both Lydians and
Persians. But the autonomy of cities and states, favorable as it was to
the development of art, literature, and commerce, as well as of
individual genius in all departments of knowledge and enterprise, was
not calculated to make a people politically powerful. Only a strong
central power enables a country to resist hostile aggressions on a great
scale. Thus Greece herself ultimately fell into the hands of Philip, and
afterward into those of the Romans.

The conquest of the Ionian cities also introduced into Asia Minor and
perhaps into Europe Oriental customs, luxuries, and wealth hitherto
unknown. Certainly when Persia became an irresistible power and ruled
the conquered countries by satraps and royal governors, it assimilated
the Greeks with Asiatics, and modified the forms of social life; it
brought Asia and Europe together, and produced a rivalry which finally
ended in the battle of Marathon and the subsequent Asiatic victories of
Alexander. While the conquests of the Persians introduced Oriental ideas
and customs into Greece, the wars of Alexander extended the Grecian sway
in Asia. The civilized world opened toward the East; but with the
extension of Greek ideas and art, there was a decline of primitive
virtues in Greece herself. Luxury undermined power.

The annexation of Asia Minor to the empire of Cyrus was followed by a
protracted war with the barbarians on his eastern boundaries. The
imperfect subjugation of barbaric nations living in Central Asia
occupied Cyrus, it is thought, about twelve years. He pushed his
conquests to the Iaxartes on the north and Afghanistan on the east,
reducing that vast country which lies between the Caspian Sea and the
deserts of Tartary.

Cyrus was advancing in years before he undertook the conquest of
Babylon, the most important of all his undertakings, and for which his
other conquests were preparatory. At the age of sixty, Cyrus, 538 B.C.,
advanced against Narbonadius, the proud king of Babylon,--the only
remaining power in Asia that was still formidable. The Babylonian
Empire, which had arisen on the ruins of the Assyrian, had lasted only
about one hundred years. Yet what wonders and triumphs had been seen at
Babylon during that single century! What progress had been made in arts
and sciences! What grand palaces and temples had been erected! What a
multitude of captives had added to the pomp and wealth of the proudest
city of antiquity! Babylon the great,---"the glory of kingdoms," "the
praise of the whole earth," the centre of all that was civilized and all
that was corrupting in the Oriental world, with its soothsayers, its
magicians, its necromancers, its priests, its nobles,--was now to fall,
for its abominations cried aloud to heaven for punishment.

This great city was built on both sides of the Euphrates, was fifteen
miles square, with gardens and fields capable of supporting a large
population, and was stocked with provisions to maintain a siege of
indefinite length against any enemy. The accounts of its walls and
fortifications exceed belief, estimated by Herodotus to be three hundred
and fifty feet in height, with a wide moat surrounding them, which could
not be bridged or crossed by an invading army. The soldiers of
Narbonadius looked with derision on the veteran forces of Cyrus,
although they were inured to the hardships and privations of incessant
war. To all appearance the city was impregnable, and could be taken only
by unusual methods. But the genius of the Persian conqueror, according
to traditional accounts, surmounted all difficulties. Who else would
have thought of diverting the Euphrates from its bed into the canals and
gigantic reservoirs which Nebuchadnezzar had built for purposes of
irrigation? Yet this seems to have been done. Taking advantage of a
festival, when the whole population were given over to bacchanalian
orgies, and therefore off their guard, Cyrus advanced, under the cover
of a dark night, by the bed of the river, now dry, and easily surprised
the drunken city, slaying the king, with a thousand of his lords, as he
was banqueting in his palace. The slightest accident or miscarriage
would have defeated so bold an operation. The success of Cyrus had all
the mystery and solemnity of a Providential event. Though no miracle was
wrought, the fall of Babylon--so strong, so proud, so defiant--was as
wonderful as the passage of the Israelites across the Red Sea, or the
crumbling walls of Jericho before the blasts of the trumpets of Joshua.

However, this account is to be taken with some reserve, since by the
discoveries of historical "cylinders,"--the clay books whereon the
Chaldaean priests and scribes recorded the main facts of the reigns of
their monarchs,--and especially one called the "Proclamation Cylinder,"
prepared for Cyrus after the fall of Babylon, it would seem that
dissension and treachery within had much to do with facilitating the
entrance of the invader. Narbonadius, the second successor of
Nebuchadnezzar, had quarrelled with the priesthood of Babylon, and
neglected the worship of Bel-Marduk and Nebo, the special patron gods of
that city. The captive Jews also, who had been now nearly fifty years in
the land, had grown more zealous for their own God and religion, more
influential and wealthy, and even had become in some sort a power in the
State. The invasion of Cyrus--a monotheist like themselves--must have
seemed to them a special providence from Jehovah; indeed, we know that
it did, from the records in II. Chronicles xxxvi. 22, 23: "The Lord
stirred up the spirit of Koresh, King of Persia, that he made a
proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing."
The same words occur in the beginning of the Book of Ezra, both
referring to the sending home of the Jews after the fall of Babylon; the
forty-sixth chapter of Isaiah also: "The Lord saith of Koresh, He is my
shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure."

Babylon was not at that time levelled with the ground, but became one of
the capitals of the Persian Empire, where the Persian monarch resided
for more than half the year. Although the Babylonian Empire began with
Nabopolassar, B.C. 625, on the destruction of Nineveh, yet Babylon was a
very ancient city and the capital of the ancient Chaldaean monarchy,
which lasted under various dynasties from about 2400 B.C. to 1300 B.C.,
when it was taken by the Assyrians under Tig Vathi-Nin. The great
Assyrian Empire, which thus absorbed ancient Babylonia, lasted between
six and seven hundred years, according to Herodotus, although recent
discoveries and inscriptions make its continuance much longer, and was
the dominant power of Asia during the most interesting period of Jewish
history, until taken by Cyaxares the Median. The limits of the empire
varied at different times, for the conquered States which composed it
were held together by a precarious tenure. But even in its greatest
strength it was inferior in size and power to the Empire of Cyrus. To
check rebellion,--a source of constant trouble and weakness,--the
warlike monarchs were obliged to reconquer, imposing not only tribute
and fealty, but overrunning the rebellious countries with fire and
sword, and carrying away captive to distant cities a large part of the
population as slaves. Thus at one time two hundred thousand Jews were
transported to Assyria, and the "Ten Tribes" were scattered over the
Eastern world, never more to return to Palestine.

On the rebellion of Nabopolassar, in 625 B.C., Babylon recovered not
only its ancient independence, but more than its ancient prestige; yet
the empire of which it was the capital lasted only about the same length
of time as Media and Lydia,--the most powerful monarchies existing when
Cyrus was born. Babylon, however, during its brief dominion, after
having been subject to Assyria for seven hundred years, reappeared in
unparalleled splendor, and was probably the most magnificent capital the
ancient world ever saw until Rome arose. Even after its occupancy by the
Persian monarchs for two hundred years, it called out the admiration of
Herodotus and Alexander alike. Its arts, its sciences, its manufactures,
to say nothing of its palaces and temples, were the admiration of
travellers. When the proud conqueror of Palestine beheld the
magnificence he had created, little did he dream that "this great
Babylon which he had built" would become such a desolation that its very
site would be uncertain,--a habitation for dragons, a dreary waste for
owls and goats and wild beasts to occupy.

We should naturally suppose that Cyrus, with the kings of Asia prostrate
before his satraps, would have been contented to enjoy the fruits of his
labors; but there is no limit to man's ambition. Like Alexander, he
sought for new worlds to conquer, and perished, as some historians
maintain, in an unsuccessful war with some unknown barbarians on the
northeastern boundaries of his empire,--even as Caesar meditated a war
with the Parthians, where he might have perished, as Crassus did.
Unbounded as is human ambition, there is a limit to human
aggrandizement. Great conquerors are raised up by Providence to
accomplish certain results for civilization, and when these are
attained, when their mission is ended, they often pass away
ingloriously,--assassinated or defeated or destroyed by self-indulgence,
as the case may be. It seems to have been the mission of Cyrus to
destroy the ascendency of the Semitic and Hamitic despotisms in western
Asia, that a new empire might be erected by nobler races, who should
establish a reign of law. For the first time in Asia there was, on the
accession of Cyrus to unlimited power, a recognition of justice, and the
adoration of one supreme deity ruling in goodness and truth.

This may be the reason why Cyrus treated the captive Jews with so great
generosity, since he recognized in their Jehovah the Ahura-Mazda,--the
Supreme God that Zoroaster taught. No political reason will account for
sending back to Palestine thousands of captives with imperial presents,
to erect once more their sacred Temple and rebuild their sacred city. He
and all the Persian monarchs were zealous adherents of the religion of
Zoroaster, the central doctrine of which was the unity of God and
Divine Providence in the world, which doctrine neither Egyptian nor
Babylonian nor Lydian monarchs recognized. What a boon to humanity was
the restoration of the Jews to their capital and country! We read of no
oppression of the Jews by the Persian monarchs. Mordecai the Jew became
the prime minister of such an effeminate monarch as Xerxes, while Daniel
before him had been the honored minister of Darius.

Of all the Persian monarchs Cyrus was the best beloved. Xenophon made
him the hero of his philosophical romance. He is represented as the
incarnation of "sweetness and light." When a mere boy he delights all
with whom he is brought into contact, by his wit and valor. The king of
Media accepts his reproofs and admires his wisdom; the nobles of Media
are won by his urbanity and magnanimity. All historians praise his
simple habits and unbounded generosity. In an age when polygamy was the
vice of kings, he was contented with one wife, whom he loved and
honored. He rejected great presents, and thought it was better to give
than to receive. He treated women with delicacy and captives with
magnanimity. He conducted war with unknown mildness, and converted the
conquered into friends. He exalted the dignity of labor, and scorned all
baseness and lies. His piety and manly virtues may have been exaggerated
by his admirers, but what we do know of him fills us with admiration.
Brilliant in intellect, lofty in character, he was an ideal man, fitted
to be the guide of a noble nation whom he led to glory and honor. Other
warriors of world-wide fame have had, like him, great excellencies,
marred by glaring defects; but no vices or crimes are ascribed to Cyrus,
such as stained the characters of David and Constantine. The worst we
can say of him is that he was ambitious, and delighted in conquest; but
he was a conqueror raised up to elevate a religious race to a higher
plane, and to find a field for the development of their energies,
whatever may be said of their subsequent degeneracy. "The grandeur of
his character is well rendered in that brief and unassuming inscription
of his, more eloquent in its lofty simplicity than anything recorded by
Assyrian and Babylonian kings: 'I am Kurush [Cyrus] the king, the
Achaemenian.'" Whether he fell in battle, or died a natural death in one
of his palaces, he was buried in the ancient but modest capital of the
ancient Persians, Pasargadae; and his tomb was intact in the time of
Alexander, who visited it,--a sort of marble chapel raised on a marble
platform thirty-six feet high, in which was deposited a gilt
sarcophagus, together with Babylonian tapestries, Persian weapons, and
rare jewels of great value. This was the inscription on his tomb: "O
man, I am Kurush, the son of Kambujiya, who founded the greatness of
Persia and ruled Asia; grudge me not this monument."

Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who though not devoid of fine
qualities was jealous and tyrannical. He caused his own brother Smerdis
to be put to death. He completed the conquests of his father by adding
Egypt to his empire. In a fit of remorse for the murder of his brother
he committed suicide, and the empire was usurped by a Magian impostor,
called Gaumata, who claimed to be the second son of Cyrus. His reign,
however, was short, he being slain by Darius the son of Hystaspes,
belonging to another branch of the royal family. Darius was a great
general and statesman, who reorganized the empire and raised it to the
zenith of its power and glory. It extended from the Greek islands on the
west to India on the east. This monarch even penetrated to the Danube
with his armies, but made no permanent conquest in Europe. He made Susa
his chief capital, and also built Persepolis, the ruins of which attest
its ancient magnificence. It seems that he was a devout follower of
Zoroaster, and ascribed his successes to the favor of Ahura-Mazda, the
Supreme Deity.

It was during the reign of Darius that Persia came in contact with
Greece, in consequence of the revolt of the Ionian cities of Asia Minor,
which, however, was easily suppressed by the Persian satrap. Then
followed two invasions of Greece itself by the Persians under the
generals of Darius, and their defeat at Marathon by Miltiades.

Darius was succeeded by Xerxes, the Ahasuerus of the Hebrew Scriptures,
whose invasion of Greece with the largest army the world ever saw
properly belongs to Grecian history. It was reserved for the heroes of
Plataea to teach the world the lesson that the strength of armies is not
in multitudes but in discipline,--a lesson confirmed by the conquests of
Alexander and Caesar.

On the fall of the Persian Empire three hundred years after the fall of
Babylon, and the establishment of the Greek rule in Asia under the
generals of Alexander, Persia proper did not cease to be formidable.
Under the Sassanian princes the ambition of the Achaemenians was
revived. Sapor defied Rome herself, and dragged the Emperor Valerian in
disgraceful captivity to Ctesiphon, his capital. Sapor II. was the
conqueror of the Emperor Julian, and Chrosroes was an equally formidable
adversary. In the year 617 A.D. Persian warriors advanced to the walls
of Constantinople, and drove the Emperor Heraclius to despair.

Thus Persia never lost wholly its ancient prestige, and still remains,
after the rise and fall of so many dynasties, and such great
vicissitudes from Greek and Arab conquests, a powerful country twice the
size of Germany, under the rule of an independent prince. There seems
no likelihood of her ever again playing so grand a part in the world's
history as when, under the great Cyrus, she prepared the transfer of
empire from the Orient to the Occident. But "what has been, has been,
and she has had her hour."


Herodotus and Xenophon are our main authorities, though not to be fully
relied upon. Of modern works Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies and
Rawlinson's Herodotus are the most valuable. Ragozin has written
interesting books on Media, Persia, Assyria, and Chaldaea, making
special note of the researches of European travellers in the East.
Fergusson, Layard, Sayce, and George Smith have shed light on all this
ancient region. Johnson's work is learned but indefinite. Benjamin is
the latest writer on the history of Persia; but a satisfactory life of
Cyrus has yet to be written.


       *       *       *       *       *

100-44 B.C.


The most august name in the history of the old Roman world, and perhaps
of all antiquity, is that of Julius Caesar; and a new interest has of
late been created in this extraordinary man by the brilliant sketch of
his life and character by Mr. Froude, who has whitewashed him, as is the
fashion with hero-worshippers, like Carlyle in his history of Frederick
II. But it is not an easy thing to reverse the verdict of the civilized
world for two thousand years, although a man of genius can say many
interesting things and offer valuable suggestions.

In his Life of Caesar Mr. Froude seems to vindicate Imperialism, not
merely as a great necessity in the corrupt times which succeeded the
civil wars of Marius and Sulla, but as a good thing in itself. It seems
to me that while there was a general tendency to Imperialism in the
Roman world for one or two hundred years before Christ, the whole
tendency of modern governments is against it, and has been since the
second English Revolution. It still exists in Russia and Turkey,
possibly in Germany and Austria; yet constitutional forms of government
seem to be gradually taking its place. What a change in England, France,
Italy, and Spain during the last hundred years!--what a breaking up of
the old absolutism of the Bourbons! Even the imperialism of Napoleon is
held in detestation by a large class of the French nation.

It may have been necessary for such a man as Caesar to arise when the
Romans had already conquered a great part of the civilized world, and
when the various provinces which composed the Empire needed a firm,
stable, and uniform government in the hands of a single man, in order to
promote peace and law,--the first conditions of human society. But it is
one thing to recognize the majesty of divine Providence in furnishing a
remedy for the peculiar evils of an age or people, and quite another
thing to make this remedy a panacea for all the future conditions of
nations. If we believe in the moral government of this world by a divine
and supreme Intelligence whom we call God, then it is not difficult to
see in Julius Caesar, after nearly two thousand years, an instrument of
Providence like Constantine, Charlemagne, Richelieu, and Napoleon
himself. It matters nothing whether Caesar was good or bad, whether he
was a patriot or a usurper, so far as his ultimate influence is
concerned, if he was the instrument of an overruling Power; for God
chooses such instruments as he pleases. Even in human governments it is
sometimes expedient to employ rogues in order to catch rogues, or to
head off some peculiar evil that honest people do not know how to
manage. But because a bad man is selected by a higher power to do some
peculiar work, it does not follow that this bad man should be praised
for doing it, especially if the work is good only so far as it is
overruled. Both human consciousness and Christianity declare that it is
a crime to shed needless and innocent blood. If ambition prompts a man
to destroy his rivals and fill the world with miseries in order to climb
to supreme power, then it is an insult to the human understanding to
make this ambition synonymous with patriotism. A successful conqueror
may be far-sighted and enlightened, whatever his motives for conquest;
but because he is enlightened, it does not follow that he fights battles
with the supreme view of benefiting his country, like William III. and
George Washington. He may have taken the sword chiefly to elevate
himself; or, after having taken the sword with a view of rendering
important services, and having rendered these services, he may have been
diverted from his original intentions, and have fought for the
gratification of personal ambition, losing sight utterly of the cause
in which he embarked.

Now this is the popular view which the world has taken of Caesar.
Shakspeare may have been unjust in his verdict; but it is a verdict
which has been sustained by most writers and by popular sentiment during
the last three hundred years. It was also the verdict of Cicero, of the
Roman Senate, and of ancient historians. It is one of my objects to show
in this lecture how far this verdict is just. It is another object to
point out the services of Caesar to the State, which, however great and
honestly to be praised, do not offset crime.

Caius Julius Caesar belonged to one of the proudest and most ancient of
the patrician families of Rome,--a branch of the _gens Julia_, which
claimed a descent from Iules, the son of Aeneas. His father, Caius
Julius, married Aurelia, a noble matron of the Cotta family, and his
aunt Julia married the great Marius; so that, though he was a patrician
of the purest blood, his family alliances were either plebeian or on the
liberal side in politics. He was born one hundred years before Christ,
and received a good education, but was not precocious, like Cicero.
There was nothing remarkable about his childhood. "He was a tall and
handsome man, with dark, piercing eyes, sallow complexion, large nose,
full lips, refined and intellectual features, and thick neck." He was
particular about his appearance, and showed a studied negligence of
dress. His uncle Marius, in the height of his power, marked him out for
promotion, and made him a priest of Jupiter when he was fourteen years
old. On the death of his father, a man of praetorian rank, and therefore
a senator, at the age of seventeen Caesar married Cornelia, the daughter
of Cinna, which connected him still more closely with the popular party.
He was only a few years younger than Cicero and Pompey. When he was
eighteen he attracted the notice of Sulla, then dictator, who wished him
to divorce his wife and take such a one as he should propose,--which the
young man, at the risk of his life, refused to do. This boldness and
independence of course displeased the Dictator, who predicted his
future. "In this young Caesar," said he, "there are many Mariuses;" but
he did not kill him, owing to the intercession of powerful friends.

The career of Caesar may be divided into three periods, during each of
which he appeared in a different light: the first, until he began the
conquest of Gaul, at the age of forty-three; the second, the time of his
military exploits in Gaul, by which he rendered great services and
gained popularity and fame; and the third, that of his civil wars,
dictatorship, and imperial reign.

In the first period of his life, for about twenty-five years, he made a
mark indeed, but rendered no memorable services to the State and won no
especial fame. Had he died at the age of forty-three, his name would
probably not have descended to our times, except as a leading citizen, a
good lawyer, and powerful debater. He saw military service, almost as a
matter of course; but he was not particularly distinguished as a
general, nor did he select the military profession. He was eloquent,
aspiring, and able, as a young patrician; but, like Cicero, it would
seem that he sought the civil service, and made choice of the law, by
which to rise in wealth and power. He was a politician from the first;
and his ambition was to get a seat in the Senate, like all other able
and ambitious men. Senators were not hereditary, however nobly born, but
gained their seats by election to certain high offices in the gift of
the people, called curule offices, which entitled them to senatorial
position and dignity. A seat in the Senate was the great object of Roman
ambition; because the Senate was the leading power of the State, and
controlled the army, the treasury, religious worship, and the provinces.
The governors and ambassadors, as well as the dictators, were selected
by this body of aristocrats. In fact, to the Senate was intrusted the
supreme administration of the Empire, although the source of power was
technically and theoretically in the people, or those who had the right
of suffrage; and as the people elected those magistrates whose offices
entitled them to a seat in the Senate, the Senate was virtually elected
by the people. Senators held their places for life, but could be weeded
out by the censors. And as the Senate in its best days contained between
three and four hundred men, not all the curule magistrates could enter
it, unless there were vacancies; but a selection from them was made by
the censors. So the Senate, in all periods of the Roman Republic, was
composed of experienced men,--of those who had previously held the great
offices of State.

To gain a seat in the Senate, therefore, it was necessary to be elected
by the people to one of the great magistracies. In the early ages of the
Republic the people were incorruptible; but when foreign conquest,
slavery, and other influences demoralized them, they became venal and
sold their votes. Hence only rich men, ordinarily, were elected to high
office; and the rich men, as a rule, belonged to the old families. So
the Senate was made up not only of experienced men, but of the
aristocracy. There were rich men outside the Senate,--successful
plebeians, men who had made fortunes by trade, bankers, monopolists, and
others; but these, if ambitious of social position or political
influence, became gradually absorbed among the senatorial families.
Those who could afford to buy the votes of the people, and those only,
became magistrates and senators. Hence the demagogues were rich men and
belonged to the highest ranks, like Clodius and Catiline.

It thus happened that, when Julius Caesar came upon the stage, the
aristocracy controlled the elections. The people were indeed sovereign;
but they abdicated their power to those who would pay the most for it.
The constitution was popular in name; in reality it was aristocratic,
since only rich men (generally noble) could be elected to office. Rome
was ruled by aristocrats, who became rich as the people became poor. The
great source of senatorial wealth was in the control of the provinces.
The governors were chosen by the Senate and from the Senate; and it
required only one or two years to make a fortune as a governor, like
Verres. The ultimate cause which threw power into the hands of the rich
and noble was the venality of the people. The aristocratic demagogues
bought them, in the same way that rich monopolists in our day control
legislatures. The people are too numerous in this country to be directly
bought up, even if it were possible, and the prizes they confer are not
high enough to tempt rich men, as they did in Rome.

A man, therefore, who would rise to power at Rome must necessarily bribe
the people, must purchase their votes, unless he was a man of
extraordinary popularity,--some great orator like Cicero, or successful
general like Marius or Sulla; and it was difficult to get popularity
except as a lawyer and orator, or as a general.

Caesar, like Cicero and Hortensius, chose the law as a means of rising
in the world; for, though of ancient family, he was not rich. He must
make money by his profession, or he must borrow it, if he would secure
office. It seems he borrowed it. How he contrived to borrow such vast
sums as he spent on elections, I do not know. He probably made friends
of rich men like Crassus, who became security for him. He was in debt to
the amount of $1,500,000 of our money before he held office. He was a
bold political gambler, and played for high stakes. It would seem that
he had very winning and courteous manners, though he was not
distinguished for popular oratory. His terse and pregnant sentences,
however, won the admiration of his friend Cicero, a brother lawyer, and
he was very social and hospitable. He was on the liberal side in
politics, and attacked the abuses of the day, which won him popular
favor. At first he lived in a modest house with his wife and mother, in
the Subarra, without attracting much notice. The first office to which
he was elected was that of a Military Tribune, soon after his sojourn of
two years in Rhodes to learn from Apollonius the arts of oratory. His
next office was that of Quaestor, which enabled him to enter the Senate,
at the age of thirty-two; and his third office, that of Aedile, which
gave him the control of the public buildings: the Aediles were expected
to decorate the city, and this gave him opportunities of cultivating
popularity by splendor and display. The first thing which brought him
into notice as an orator was a funeral oration he pronounced on his Aunt
Julia, the widow of Marius. The next fortunate event of his life was his
marriage with Pompeia, a cousin of Pompey, who was then the foremost man
in Rome, having distinguished himself in Spain and in putting down the
slave insurrection under Spartacus; but Pompey's great career in the
East had not yet commenced, so that the future rivals at that time were
friends. Caesar glorified Pompey in the Senate, which by virtue of his
office he had lately entered. The next step to greatness was his
election by the people--through the use of immense amounts of borrowed
money--to the great office of Pontifex Maximus, which made him the pagan
Pope of Rome for life, with a grand palace to live in. Soon after he was
made Praetor, which office entitled him to a provincial government; and
he was sent by the Senate to Spain as Pro-praetor, completed the
conquest of the peninsula, and sent to Borne vast sums of money. These
services entitled him to a triumph; but, as he presented himself at the
same time as a candidate for the consulship, he was obliged to forego
the triumph, and was elected Consul without opposition: his vanity ever
yielded to his ambition.

Thus far there was nothing remarkable in Caesar's career. He had risen
by power of money, like other aristocrats, to the highest offices of the
State, showing abilities indeed, but not that extraordinary genius which
has made him immortal. He was the leader of the political party which
Sulla had put down, and yet was not a revolutionist like the Gracchi. He
was an aristocratic reformer, like Lord John Russell before the passage
of the Reform Bill, whom the people adored. He was a liberal, but not a
radical. Of course he was not a favorite with the senators, who wished
to perpetuate abuses. He was intensely disliked by Cato, a most
excellent and honest man, but narrow-minded and conservative,--a sort of
Duke of Wellington without his military abilities. The Senate would make
no concessions, would part with no privileges, and submit to no changes.
Like Lord Eldon, it "adhered to what was established, because it was

Caesar, as Consul, began his administration with conciliation; and he
had the support of Crassus with his money, and of Pompey as the
representative of the army, who was then flushed with his Eastern
conquests,--pompous, vain, and proud, but honest and incorruptible.
Cicero stood aloof,--the greatest man in the Senate, whose aristocratic
privileges he defended. He might have aided Caesar "in the speaking
department;" but as a "new man" he was jealous of his prerogatives, and
was always conservative, like Burke, whom he resembled in his eloquence
and turn of mind and fondness for literature and philosophy. Failing to
conciliate the aristocrats, Caesar became a sort of Mirabeau, and
appealed to the people, causing them to pass his celebrated "Leges
Juliae," or reform bills; the chief of which was the "land act," which
conferred portions of the public lands on Pompey's disbanded soldiers
for settlement,--a wise thing, which senators opposed, since it took
away their monopoly. Another act required the provincial governors, on
their return from office, to render an account of their stewardship and
hand in their accounts for public inspection. The Julian Laws also were
designed to prevent the plunder of the public revenues, the debasing of
the coin, the bribery of judges and of the people at elections. There
were laws also for the protection of citizens from violence, and sundry
other reforms which were enlightened and useful. In the passage of these
laws against the will of the Senate, we see that the people were still
recognized as sovereign in _legislation_. The laws were good. All
depended on their execution; and the Senate, as the administrative body,
could practically defeat their operation when Caesar's term of office
expired; and this it unwisely determined to do. The last thing it
wished was any reform whatever; and, as Mr. Froude thinks, there must
have been either reform or revolution. But this is not so clear to me.
Aristocracy was all-powerful when money could buy the people, and when
the people had no virtue, no ambition, no intelligence. The struggle at
Rome in the latter days of the Republic was not between the people and
the aristocracy, but between the aristocracy and the military chieftains
on one side, and those demagogues whom it feared on the other. The
result showed that the aristocracy feared and distrusted Caesar; and he
used the people only to advance his own ends,--of course, in the name of
reform and patriotism. And when he became Dictator, he kicked away the
ladder on which he climbed to power. It was Imperialism that he
established; neither popular rights nor aristocratic privileges. He had
no more love of the people than he had of those proud aristocrats who
afterwards murdered him.

But the empire of the world--to which Caesar at that time may, or may
not, have aspired: who can tell? but probably not--was not to be gained
by civil services, or reforms, or arguments in law courts, or by holding
great offices, or haranguing the people at the rostrum, or making
speeches in the Senate,--where he was hated for his liberal views and
enlightened mind, rather than from any fear of his overturning the
constitution,--but by military services and heroic deeds and the
devotion of a tried and disciplined regular army. Caesar was now
forty-three years of age, being in the full maturity of his powers. At
the close of his term as Consul he sought a province where military
talents were indispensable, and where he could have a long term of
office. The Senate gave him the "woods and forests,"--an unsubdued
country, where he would have hard work and unknown perils, and from
which it was probable he would never return. They sent him to Gaul. But
this was just the field for his marvellous military genius, then only
partially developed; and the second period of his career now began.

It was during this second period that he rendered his most important
services to the State and earned his greatest fame. The dangers which
threatened the Empire came from the West, and not the East. Asia was
already-subdued by Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey, or was on the point of
being subdued. Mithridates was a formidable enemy; but he aimed at
establishing an Asiatic empire, not conquering the European provinces.
He was not so dangerous as even Pyrrhus had been. Moreover, the conquest
of the East was comparatively easy,--over worn-out races and an effete
civilization; it gave _éclat_ to Sulla and Pompey,--as the conquest of
India, with a handful of British troops, made Clive and Hastings
famous; it required no remarkable military genius, nor was it necessary
for the safety of Italy. Conquest over the Oriental monarchies meant
only spoliation. It was prompted by greed and vanity more than by a
sense of danger. Pompey brought back money enough from the East to
enrich all his generals, and the Senate besides,--or rather the State,
which a few aristocrats practically owned.

But the conquest of Gaul would be another affair. It was peopled with
hardy races, who cast their greedy eyes on the empire of the Romans, or
on some of its provinces, and who were being pushed forward to invasion
by a still braver people beyond the Rhine,--races kindred to those
Teutons whom Marius had defeated. There was no immediate danger from the
Germans; but there was ultimate danger, as proved by the union they made
in the time of Marcus Antoninus for the invasion of the Roman provinces.
It was necessary to raise a barrier against their inundations. It was
also necessary to subdue the various Celtic tribes of Gaul, who were
getting restless and uneasy. There was no money in a conquest over
barbarians, except so far as they could be sold into slavery; but there
was danger in it. The whole country was threatened with insurrections,
leagues, and invasion, from the Alps to the ocean. There was a
confederacy of hostile kings and chieftains; they commanded innumerable
forces; they controlled important posts and passes. The Gauls had long
made fixed settlements, and had built bridges and fortresses. They were
not so warlike as the Germans; but they were yet formidable enemies.
United, they were like "a volcano giving signs of approaching eruption;
and at any moment, and hardly without warning, another lava stream might
be poured down Venetia and Lombardy."

To rescue the Empire from such dangers was the work of Caesar; and it
was no small undertaking. The Senate had given him unlimited power, for
five years, over Gaul,--then a _terra incognita_,--an indefinite
country, comprising the modern States of France, Holland, Switzerland,
Belgium, and a part of Germany. Afterward the Senate extended the
governorship five years more; so difficult was the work of conquest, and
so formidable were the enemies. But it was danger which Caesar loved.
The greater the obstacles the better was he pleased, and the greater was
the scope for his genius,--which at first was not appreciated, for the
best part of his life had been passed in Rome as a lawyer and orator and
statesman. But he had a fine constitution, robust health, temperate
habits, and unbounded energies. He was free to do as he liked with
several legions, and had time to perfect his operations. And his legions
were trained to every kind of labor and hardship. They could build
bridges, cut down forests, and drain swamps, as well as march with a
weight of eighty pounds to the man. They could make their own shoes,
mend their own clothes, repair their own arms, and construct their own
tents. They were as familiar with the axe and spade as they were with
the lance and sword. They were inured to every kind of danger and
difficulty, and not one of them was personally braver than the general
who led them, or more skilful in riding a horse, or fording a river, or
climbing a mountain. No one of them could be more abstemious. Luxury is
not one of the peculiarities of successful generals in barbaric

To give a minute sketch of the various encounters with the different
tribes and nations that inhabited the vast country he was sent to
conquer and govern, would be impossible in a lecture like this. One must
read Caesar's own account of his conflicts with Helvetii, Aedui, Remi,
Nervii, Belgae, Veneti, Arverni, Aquitani, Ubii, Eubueones, Treveri, and
other nations between the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Rhine, and the sea.
Their numbers were immense, and they were well armed, and had cavalry,
military stores, efficient leaders, and indomitable courage. When beaten
in one place they sprang up in another, like the Saxons with whom
Charlemagne contended. They made treaties only to break them. They
fought with the desperation of heroes who had their wives and children,
firesides and altars, to guard; yet against them Caesar was uniformly
successful. He was at times in great peril, yet he never lost but one
battle, and this through the fault of his generals. Yet he had able
generals, whom he selected himself,--Labienus, who afterwards deserted
him, Antony, Publius Crassus, Cotta, Sabinus,--all belonging to the
aristocracy. They made mistakes, but Caesar never. They would often have
been cut off but for Caesar's timely aid.

When we consider the dangers to which he was constantly exposed, the
amazing difficulties he had to surmount, the hardships he had to
encounter, the fears he had to allay, the murmurs he was obliged to
silence, the rivers he was compelled to cross in the face of enemies,
the forests it was necessary to penetrate, the swamps and mountains and
fortresses which impeded his marches, we are amazed at his skill and
intrepidity, to say nothing of his battles with forces ten times more
numerous than his own. His fertility of resources, his lightning
rapidity of movement, his sagacity and insight, his perfection of
discipline, his careful husbandry of forces, his ceaseless diligence,
his intrepid courage, the confidence with which he inspired his
soldiers, his brilliant successes (victory after victory), with the
enormous number of captives by which he and the State became
enriched,--all these things dazzled his countrymen, and gave him a fame
such as no general had ever earned before. He conquered a population of
warriors to be numbered by millions, with no aid from charts and maps,
exposed perpetually to treachery and false information. He had to please
and content an army a thousand miles from home, without supplies, except
such as were precarious,--living on the plainest food, and doomed to
infinite labors and drudgeries, besides attacking camps and assaulting
fortresses, and fighting pitched battles. Yet he won their love, their
respect, and their admiration,--and by an urbanity, a kindness, and a
careful protection of their interests, such as no general ever showed
before. He was a hero performing perpetual wonders, as chivalrous as the
knights of the Middle Ages. No wonder he was adored, like a Moses in the
wilderness, like a Napoleon in his early conquests.

This conquest of Gaul, during which he drove the Germans back to their
forests, and inaugurated a policy of conciliation and moderation which
made the Gauls the faithful allies of Rome, and their country its most
fertile and important province, furnishing able men both for the Senate
and the Army, was not only a great feat of genius, but a great
service--a transcendent service--to the State, which entitled Caesar to
a magnificent reward. Had it been cordially rendered to him, he might
have been contented with a sort of perpetual consulship, and with the
éclat of being the foremost man of the Empire. The people would have
given him anything in their power to give, for he was as much an idol to
them as Napoleon became to the Parisians after the conquest of Italy. He
had rendered services as brilliant as those of Scipio, of Marius, of
Sulla, or of Pompey. If he did not save Italy from being subsequently
overrun by barbarians, he postponed their irruptions for two hundred
years. And he had partially civilized the country he had subdued, and
introduced Roman institutions. He had also created an army of
disciplined veterans, such as never before was seen. He perfected
military mechanism, that which kept the Empire together after all
vitality had fled. He was the greatest master of the art of war known to
antiquity. Such transcendent military excellence and such great services
entitled him to the gratitude and admiration of the whole Empire,
although he enriched himself and his soldiers with the spoils of his ten
years' war, and did not, so far as I can see, bring great sums into the
national treasury.

But the Senate was reluctant to give him the customary rewards for ten
years' successful war, and for adding Western Europe to the Empire. It
was jealous of his greatness and his renown. It also feared him, for he
had eleven legions in his pay, and was known to be ambitious. It hated
him for two reasons: first, because in his first consulship he had
introduced reforms, and had always sided with the popular and liberal
party; and secondly, because military successes of unprecedented
brilliancy had made him dangerous. So, on the conclusion of the conquest
of Gaul, it withdrew two legions from his army, and sought to deprive
him of his promised second consulate, and even to recall him before his
term of office as governor was expired. In other words, it sought to
cripple and disarm him, and raise his rival, Pompey, over him in the
command of the forces of the Empire.

It was now secret or open war, not between Caesar and the Roman people,
but between Caesar and the Senate,--between a great and triumphant
general and the Roman oligarchy of nobles, who, for nearly five hundred
years, had ruled the Empire. On the side of Caesar were the army, the
well-to-do classes, and the people; on the side of the Senate were the
forces which a powerful aristocracy could command, having the prestige
of law and power and wealth, and among whom were the great names of
the republic.

Mr. Froude ridicules and abuses this aristocracy, as unfit longer to
govern the State, as a worn-out power that deserved to fall. He
uniformly represents them as extravagant, selfish, ostentatious,
luxurious, frivolous, Epicurean in opinions and in life, oppressive in
all their social relations, haughty beyond endurance, and controlling
the popular elections by means of bribery and corruption. It would be
difficult to refute these charges. The Patricians probably gave
themselves up to all the pleasures incident to power and unbounded
wealth, in a corrupt and wicked age. They had their palaces in the city
and their villas in the country, their parks and gardens, their
fish-ponds and game-preserves, their pictures and marbles, their
expensive furniture and costly ornaments, gold and silver vessels, gems
and precious works of art. They gave luxurious banquets; they travelled
like princes; they were a body of kings, to whom the old monarchs of
conquered provinces bowed down in fear and adulation. All this does not
prove that they were incapable, although they governed for the interests
of their class. They were all experienced in affairs of State,--most of
them had been quaestors, aediles, praetors, censors, tribunes, consuls,
and governors. Most of them were highly educated, had travelled
extensively, were gentlemanly in their manners, could make speeches in
the Senate, and could fight on the field of battle when there was a
necessity. They doubtless had the common vices of the rich and proud;
but many of them were virtuous, patriotic, incorruptible, almost austere
in morals, dignified and intellectual, whom everybody respected,--men
like Cato, Brutus, Cassius, Cicero, and others. Their sin was that they
wished to conserve their powers, privileges, and fortunes, like all
aristocracies,--like the British House of Lords. Nor must it be
forgotten that it was under their régime that the conquest of the world
was made, and that Rome had become the centre of everything magnificent
and glorious on the earth.

It was doubtless shortsighted and ungrateful in these nobles to attempt
to deprive Caesar of his laurels and his promised consulship. He had
earned them by grand services, both as a general and a statesman. But
their jealousy and hatred were not unnatural. They feared, not
unreasonably, that the successful general--rich, proud, and dictatorial
from the long exercise of power, and seated in the chair of supremest
dignity--would make sweeping changes; might reduce their authority to a
shadow, and elevate himself to perpetual dictatorship; and thus, by
substituting imperialism for aristocracy, subvert the Constitution. That
is evidently what Cicero feared, as appears in his letters to Atticus.
That is what all the leading Senators feared, especially Cato. It was
known that Caesar--although urbane, merciful, enlightened, hospitable,
and disposed to govern for the public good--was unscrupulous in the use
of tools; that he had originally gained his seat in the Senate by
bribery and demagogic arts; that he was reckless as to debts, regarding
money only as a means to buy supporters; that he had appropriated vast
sums from the spoils of war for his own use, and, from being poor, had
become the richest man in the Empire; that he had given his daughter
Julia in marriage to Pompey from political ends; that he was
long-sighted in his ambition, and would be content with nothing less
than the gratification of this insatiate passion. All this was known,
and it gave great solicitude to the leaders of the aristocracy, who
resolved to put him down,--to strip him of his power, or fight him, if
necessary, in a civil war. So the aristocracy put themselves under the
protection of Pompey,--a successful but overrated general, who also
aimed at supreme power, with the nobles as his supporters, not perhaps
as Imperator, but as the agent and representative of a subservient
Senate, in whose name he would rule.

This contest between Caesar and the aristocracy under the lead of
Pompey, its successful termination in Caesar's favor, and his brilliant
reign of about four years, as Dictator and Imperator, constitute the
third period of his memorable career.

Neither Caesar nor Pompey would disband their legions, as it was
proposed by Curio in the Senate and voted by a large majority. In fact,
things had arrived at a crisis: Caesar was recalled, and he must obey
the Senate, or be decreed a public enemy; that is, the enemy of the
power that ruled the State. He would not obey, and a general levy of
troops in support of the Senate was made, and put into the hands of
Pompey with unlimited command. The Tribunes of the people, however,
sided with Caesar, and refused confirmation of the Senatorial decrees.
Caesar then no longer hesitated, but with his army crossed the Rubicon,
which was an insignificant stream, but was the Rome-ward boundary of his
province. This was the declaration of civil war. It was now "'either
anvil or hammer." The admirers of Caesar claim that his act was a
necessity, at least a public benefit, on the ground of the misrule of
the aristocracy. But it does not appear that there was anarchy at Rome,
although Milo had killed Clodius. There were aristocratic feuds, as in
the Middle Ages. Order and law--the first conditions of society--were
not in jeopardy, as in the French Revolution, when Napoleon arose. The
people were not in hostile array against the nobles, nor the nobles
against the people. The nobles only courted and bribed the people; but
so general was corruption that a change in government was deemed
necessary by the advocates of Caesar,--at least they defended it. The
gist of all the arguments in favor of the revolution is: better
imperialism than an oligarchy of corrupt nobles. It is not my province
to settle that question. It is my work only to describe events.

It is clear that Caesar resolved on seizing supreme power, in taking it
away from the nobles, on the ground probably that he could rule better
than they,--the plea of Napoleon, the plea of Cromwell, the plea of
all usurpers.

But this supreme power he could not exercise until he had conquered
Pompey and the Senate and all his enemies. It must need be that "he
should wade through slaughter to his throne." This alternative was
forced on him, and he accepted it. He accepted civil war in order to
reign. At best, he would do evil that good might come. He was doubtless
the strongest man in the world; and, according to Mr. Carlyle's theory,
the strongest ought to rule.

Much has been said about the rabble,--the democracy,--their turbulence,
corruption, and degradation, their unfitness to rule, and all that sort
of thing, which I regard as irrelevant, so far as the usurpation of
Caesar is concerned; since the struggle was not between them and the
nobles, but between a fortunate general and the aristocracy who
controlled the State. Caesar was not the representative of the people or
of their interests, as Tiberius Gracchus was, but the representative of
the Army. He had no more sympathy with the people than he had with the
nobles: he probably despised them both, as unfit to rule. He flattered
the people and bought them, but he did not love them. It was his
soldiers whom he loved, next to himself; although, as a wise and
enlightened statesman, he wished to promote the great interests of the
nation, so far as was consistent with the enjoyment of imperial rule.
This friend of the people would give them spectacles and shows,
largesses of corn,--money, even,--and extension of the suffrage, but not
political power. He was popular with them, because he was generous and
merciful, because his exploits won their admiration, and his vast public
works gave employment to them and adorned their city.

It is unnecessary to dwell on the final contest of Caesar with the
nobles, with Pompey at their head, since nothing is more familiar in
history. Plainly he was not here rendering public services, as he did in
Spain and Gaul, but taking care of his own interests. I cannot see how a
civil war was a service, unless it were a service to destroy the
aristocratic constitution and substitute imperialism, which some think
was needed with the vast extension of the Empire, and for the good
administration of the provinces,--robbed and oppressed by the governors
whom the Senate had sent out to enrich the aristocracy. It may have been
needed for the better administration of justice, for the preservation of
law and order, and a more efficient central power. Absolutism may have
proved a benefit to the Empire, as it proved a benefit to France under
Cardinal Richelieu, when he humiliated the nobles. If so, it was only a
choice of evils, for absolutism is tyranny, and tyranny is not a
blessing, except in a most demoralized state of society, which it is
claimed was the state of Rome at the time of the usurpation of Caesar.
It is certain that the whole united strength of the aristocracy could
not prevail over Caesar, although it had Pompey for its defender, with
his immense prestige and experience as a general.

After Caesar had crossed the Rubicon, and it was certain he would march
to Rome and seize the reins of government, the aristocracy fled
precipitately to Pompey's wing at Capua, fearing to find in Caesar
another Marius. Pompey did not show extraordinary ability in the crisis.
He had no courage and no purpose. He fled to Brundusium, where ships
were waiting to transport his army to Durazzo. He was afraid to face his
rival in Italy. Caesar would have pursued, but had no navy. He therefore
went to Rome, which he had not seen for ten years, took what money he
wanted from the treasury, and marched to Spain, where the larger part of
Pompey's army, under his lieutenants, were now arrayed against him.
These it was necessary first to subdue. But Caesar prevailed, and all
Spain was soon at his feet. His successes were brilliant; and Gaul,
Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia were wholly his own, as well as Spain, which
was Pompey's province. He then rapidly returned to Rome, was named
Dictator, and as such controlled the consular election, and was chosen
Consul. But Pompey held the East, and, with his ships, controlled the
Mediterranean, and was gathering forces for the invasion of Italy.
Caesar allowed himself but eleven days in Rome. It was necessary to
meet Pompey before that general could return to Italy. It was
mid-winter,--about a year after he had crossed the Rubicon. He had with
him only thirty thousand men, but these were veterans. Pompey had nine
full Roman legions, which lay at Durazzo, opposite to Brundusium,
besides auxiliaries and unlimited means; but he was hampered by
senatorial civilians, and his legions were only used to Eastern warfare.
He also controlled the sea, so that it was next to impossible for Caesar
to embark without being defeated. Yet Caesar did cross the sea amid
overwhelming obstacles, and the result was the battle of
Pharsalia,--deemed one of the decisive battles of the world, although
the forces of the combatants were comparatively small. It was gained by
the defeat of Pompey's cavalry by a fourth line of the best soldiers of
Caesar, which was kept in reserve. Pompey, on the defeat of his cavalry,
upon whom he had based his hopes, lost heart and fled. He fled to the
sea,--uncertain, vacillating, and discouraged,--and sailed for Egypt,
relying on the friendship of the young king; but was murdered
treacherously before he set foot upon the land. His fate was most
tragical. His fall was overwhelming.

This battle, in which the flower of the Roman aristocracy succumbed to
the conqueror of Gaul, with vastly inferior forces, did not end the
desperate contest. Two more bloody battles were fought--one in Africa
and one in Spain--before the supremacy of Caesar was secured. The battle
of Thapsus, between Utica and Carthage, at which the Roman nobles once
more rallied under Cato and Labienus, and the battle of Munda, in Spain,
the most bloody of all, gained by Caesar over the sons of Pompey,
settled the civil war and made Caesar supreme. He became supreme only by
the sacrifice of half of the Roman nobility and the death of their
principal leaders,--Pompey, Labienus, Lentulus, Ligarius, Metellus,
Scipio Afrarius, Cato, Petreius, and others. In one sense it was the
contest between Pompey and Caesar for the empire of the world. Cicero
said, "The success of the one meant massacre, and that of the other
slavery,"--for if Pompey had prevailed, the aristocracy would have
butchered their enemies with unrelenting vengeance; but Caesar hated
unnecessary slaughter, and sought only power. In another sense it was
the struggle between a single man--with enlightened views and vast
designs--and the Roman aristocracy, hostile to reforms, and bent on
greed and oppression. The success of Caesar was favorable to the
restoration of order and law and progressive improvements; the success
of the nobility would have entailed a still more grinding oppression of
the people, and possibly anarchy and future conflicts between fortunate
generals and the aristocracy. Destiny or Providence gave the empire of
the world to a single man, although that man was as unscrupulous as
he was able.

Henceforth imperialism was the form of government in Rome, which lasted
about four hundred years. How long an aristocratic government would have
lasted is a speculation. Caesar, in his elevation to unlimited power,
used his power beneficently. He pardoned his enemies, gave security to
property and life, restored the finances, established order, and devoted
himself to useful reforms. He cut short the grant of corn to the citizen
mob; he repaired the desolation which war had made; he rebuilt cities
and temples; he even endeavored to check luxury and extravagance and
improve morals. He reformed the courts of law, and collected libraries
in every great city. He put an end to the expensive tours of senators in
the provinces, where they had appeared as princes exacting
contributions. He formed a plan to drain the Pontine Marshes. He
reformed the calendar, making the year to begin with the first day of
January. He built new public buildings, which the enlargement of
business required. He seemed to have at heart the welfare of the State
and of the people, by whom he was adored. But he broke up the political
ascendancy of nobles, although he did not confiscate their property. He
weakened the Senate by increasing its numbers to nine hundred, and by
appointing senators himself from his army and from the provinces,--those
who would be subservient to him, who would vote what he decreed.

Caesar's ruling passion was ambition,--thirst of power; but he had no
great animosities. He pardoned his worst enemies,--Brutus, Cassius, and
Cicero, who had been in arms against him; nor did he reign as a tyrant.
His habits were simple and unostentatious. He gave easy access to his
person, was courteous in his manners, and mingled with senators as a
companion rather than as a master. Like Charlemagne, he was temperate in
eating and drinking, and abhorred gluttony and drunkenness,--the vices
of the aristocracy and of fortunate plebeians alike. He was
indefatigable in business, and paid attention to all petitions. He was
economical in his personal expenses, although he lavished vast sums upon
the people in the way of amusing or bribing them. He dispensed with
guards and pomps, and was apparently reckless of his life: anything was
better to him than to live in perpetual fear of conspirators and
traitors. There never was a braver man, and he was ever kind-hearted to
those who did not stand in his way. He was generous, magnanimous, and
unsuspicious. He was the model of an absolute prince, aside from laxity
of morals. In regard to women, of their virtue he made little account.
His favorite mistress was Servilia, sister of Cato and mother of Brutus.
Some have even supposed that Brutus was Caesar's son, which accounts
for his lenity and forbearance and affection. He was the high-priest of
the Roman worship, and yet he believed neither in the gods nor in
immortality. But he was always the gentleman,--natural, courteous,
affable, without vanity or arrogance or egotism. He was not a patriot in
the sense that Cicero and Cato were, or Trajan and Marcus Aurelius,
since his country was made subservient to his own interests and
aggrandizement. Yet he was a very interesting man, and had fewer faults
than Napoleon, with equally grand designs.

But even he could not escape a retribution, in spite of his exalted
position and his great services. The leaders of the aristocracy still
hated him, and could not be appeased for the overthrow of their power.
They resolved to assassinate him, from vengeance rather than fear.
Cicero was not among the conspirators; because his discretion could not
be relied upon, and they passed him by. But his heart was with them.
"There are many ways," said he, "in which a man may die." It was not a
wise thing to take his life; since the Constitution was already
subverted, and somebody would reign as imperator by means of the army,
and his death would necessarily lead to renewed civil wars and new
commotions and new calamities. But angry, embittered, and passionate
enemies do not listen to reason. They will not accept the inevitable.
There was no way to get rid of Caesar but by assassination, and no one
wished him out of the way but the nobles. Hence it was easy for them to
form a conspiracy. It was easy to stab him with senatorial daggers.
Caesar was not killed because he had personal enemies, nor because he
destroyed the liberties of Roman citizens, but because he had usurped
the authority of the aristocracy.

Yet he died, perhaps at the right time, at the age of fifty-six, after
an undisputed reign of only three or four years,--about the length of
that of Cromwell. He was already bending under the infirmities of a
premature old age. Epileptic fits had set in, and his constitution was
undermined by his unparalleled labors and fatigues; and then his
restless mind was planning a new expedition to Parthia, where he might
have ingloriously perished like Crassus. But such a man could not die.
His memory and deeds lived. He filled a role in history, which could not
be forgotten. He inaugurated a successful revolution. He bequeathed a
policy to last as long as the Empire lasted; and he had rendered
services of the greatest magnitude, by which he is to be ultimately
judged, as well as by his character. It is impossible for us to settle
whether or not his services overbalanced the evils of the imperialism he
established and of the civil wars by which he reached supreme command.
Whatever view we may take of the comparative merits of an aristocracy or
an imperial despotism in a corrupt age, we cannot deny to Caesar some
transcendent services and a transcendent fame. The whole matter is laid
before us in the language of Cicero to Caesar himself, in the Senate,
when he was at the height of his power; which shows that the orator was
not lacking in courage any more than in foresight and moral wisdom:--

"Your life, Caesar, is not that which is bounded by the union of your
soul and body. Your life is that which shall continue fresh in the
memory of ages to come, which posterity will cherish and eternity itself
keep guard over. Much has been done by you which men will admire; much
remains to be done which they can praise. They will read with wonder of
empires and provinces, of the Rhine, the ocean, and the Nile, of battles
without number, of amazing victories, of countless monuments and
triumphs; but unless the Commonwealth be wisely re-established in
institutions by you bestowed upon us, your name will travel widely over
the world, but will have no fixed habitation; and those who come after
you _will dispute about you_ as we have disputed. Some will extol you to
the skies; others will find something wanting, and the most important
element of all. Remember the tribunal before which you are to stand. The
ages that are to be will try you, it may be with minds less prejudiced
than ours, uninfluenced either by the desire to please you or by envy of
your greatness."

Thus spoke Cicero with heroic frankness. The ages have "disputed about"
Caesar, and will continue to dispute about him, as they do about
Cromwell and Napoleon; but the man is nothing to us in comparison with
the ideas which he fought or which he supported, and which have the same
force to-day as they had nearly two thousand years ago. He is the
representative of imperialism; which few Americans will defend, unless
it becomes a necessity which every enlightened patriot admits. The
question is, whether it was or was not a necessity at Rome fifty years
before Christ was born. It is not easy to settle in regard to the
benefit that Caesar is supposed by some--including Mr. Froude and the
late Emperor of the French--to have rendered to the cause of
civilization by overturning the aristocratic Constitution, and
substituting, not the rule of the people, but that of a single man. It
is still one of the speculations of history; it is not one of its
established facts, although the opinions of enlightened historians seem
to lean to the necessity of the Caesarian imperialism, in view of the
misrule of the aristocracy and the abject venality of the citizens who
had votes to sell. But it must be borne in mind that it was under the
aristocratic rule of senators and patricians that Rome went on from
conquering to conquer; that the governing classes were at all times the
most intelligent, experienced, and efficient in the Commonwealth; that
their very vices may have been exaggerated; and that the imperialism
which crushed them, may also have crushed out original genius,
literature, patriotism, and exalted sentiments, and even failed to have
produced greater personal security than existed under the aristocratic
Constitution at any period of its existence. All these are disputed
points of history. It may be that Caesar, far from being a national
benefactor by reorganizing the forces of the Empire, sowed the seeds of
ruin by his imperial policy; and that, while he may have given unity,
peace, and law to the Empire, he may have taken away its life. I do not
assert this, or even argue its probability. It may have been, and it may
not have been. It is an historical puzzle. There are two sides to all
great questions. But whether or not we can settle with the light of
modern knowledge such a point as this, I look upon the defence of
imperialism in itself, in preference to constitutional government with
all its imperfections, as an outrage on the whole progress of modern
civilization, and on whatever remains of dignity and intelligence among
the people.


Caesar's Commentaries, Leges Juliae, Appian, Plutarch, Suetonius, Dion
Cassius, and Cicero's Letters to Atticus are the principal original
authorities. Napoleon III. wrote a dull Life of Caesar, but it is rich
in footnotes, which it is probable he did not himself make, since
nothing is easier than the parade of learning. Rollin's Ancient History
may be read with other general histories. Merivale's History of the
Empire is able and instructive, but dry. Mr. Froude's sketch of Caesar
is the most interesting I have read, but advocates imperialism.
Niebuhr's Lectures on the History of Rome is also a standard work, as
well as Curtius's History of Rome.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 121-180.


Marcus Aurelius is immortal, not so much for what he _did_ as for what
he _was_. His services to the State were considerable, but not
transcendent. He was a great man, but not pre-eminently a great emperor.
He was a meditative sage rather than a man of action; although he
successfully fought the Germanic barbarians, and repelled their fearful
incursions. He did not materially extend the limits of the Empire, but
he preserved and protected its provinces. He reigned wisely and ably,
but made mistakes. His greatness was in his character; his influence for
good was in his noble example. When we consider his circumstances and
temptations, as the supreme master of a vast Empire, and in a wicked and
sensual age, he is a greater moral phenomenon than Socrates or
Epictetus. He was one of the best men of Pagan antiquity. History
furnishes no example of an absolute monarch so pure and spotless and
lofty as he was, unless it be Alfred the Great or St. Louis. But the
sphere of the Roman emperor was far greater than that of the Mediaeval
kings. Marcus Aurelius ruled over one hundred and twenty millions of
people, without check or hindrance or Constitutional restraint. He could
do what he pleased with their persons and their property. Most
sovereigns, exalted to such lofty dignity and power, have been either
cruel, or vindictive, or self-indulgent, or selfish, or proud, or hard,
or ambitious,--men who have been stained by crimes, whatever may have
been their services to civilization. Most of them have yielded to their
great temptations. But Marcus Aurelius, on the throne of the civilized
world, was modest, virtuous, affable, accessible, considerate, gentle,
studious, contemplative, stained by novices,--a model of human virtue.
Hence he is one of the favorite characters of history. No Roman emperor
was so revered and loved as he, and of no one have so many monuments
been preserved. Everybody had his picture or statue in his house. He was
more than venerated in his day, and his fame as a wise and good man has
increased with the flight of ages.

This illustrious emperor did not belong to the family of the great
Caesar. That family became extinct with Nero, the sixth emperor. Like
Trajan and Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius derived his remote origin from
Spain, although he was born in Rome. His great-grandfather was a
Spaniard, and yet attained the praetorian rank. His grandfather reached
the consulate. His father died while praetor, and when he himself was a
child. He was adopted by his grandfather Annius Verus. But his
marvellous moral beauty, even as a child, attracted the attention of the
Emperor Hadrian, who bestowed upon him the honor of the aequestrian
rank, at the age of six. At fifteen he was adopted by Antoninus Pius,
then, as we might say, "Crown Prince." Had he been older, he would have
been adopted by Hadrian himself. He thus, a mere youth, became the heir
of the Roman world. His education was most excellent. From Fronto, the
greatest rhetorician of the day, he learned rhetoric; from Herodes
Atticus he acquired a knowledge of the world; from Diognotus he learned
to despise superstition; from Apollonius, undeviating steadiness of
purpose; from Sextus of Chaeronea, toleration of human infirmities; from
Maximus, sweetness and dignity; from Alexander, allegiance to duty; from
Rusticus, contempt of sophistry and display. This stoical philosopher
created in him a new intellectual life, and opened to him a new world of
thought. But the person to whom he was most indebted was his adopted
father and father-in-law, the Emperor Antoninus Pius. For him he seems
to have had the greatest reverence. "In him," said he, "I noticed
mildness of manner with firmness of resolution, contempt of vain-glory,
industry in business, and accessibility of person. From him I learned
to acquiesce in every fortune, to exercise foresight in public affairs,
to rise superior to vulgar praises, to serve mankind without ambition,
to be sober and steadfast, to be content with little, to be practical
and active, to be no dreamy bookworm, to be temperate, modest in dress,
and not to be led away by novelties." What a picture of an emperor! What
a contrast to such a man as Louis XIV!

We might draw a parallel between Marcus Aurelius and David, when he was
young and innocent. But the person in history whom he most resembled was
St. Anselm. He was a St. Anselm on the throne. Philosophical meditations
seem to have been his delight and recreation; and yet he could issue
from his retirement and engage in active pursuits. He was an able
general as well as a meditative sage,--heroic like David, capable of
enduring great fatigue, and willing to expose himself to great dangers.

While his fame rests on his "Meditations," as that of David rests upon
his Psalms, he yet rendered great military services to the Empire. He
put down a dangerous revolt under Avidius Cassius in Asia, and did not
punish the rebellious provinces. Not one person suffered death in
consequence of this rebellion. Even the papers of Cassius, who aimed to
be emperor, were burned, that a revelation of enemies might not be
made,--a signal instance of magnanimity. Cassius, it seems, was
assassinated by his own officers, which assassination Marcus Aurelius
regretted, because it deprived him of granting a free pardon to a very
able but dangerous man.

But the most signal service he rendered the Empire was a successful
resistance to the barbarians of Germany, who had formed a general union
for the invasion of the Roman world. They threatened the security of the
Empire, as the Teutons did in the time of Marius, and the Gauls and
Germans in the time of Julius Caesar. It took him twenty years to subdue
these fierce warriors. He made successive campaigns against them, as
Charlemagne did against the Saxons. It cost him the best years of his
life to conquer them, which he did under difficulties as great as Julius
surmounted in Gaul. He was the savior and deliverer of his country, as
much as Marius or Scipio or Julius. The public dangers were from the
West and not the East. Yet he succeeded in erecting a barrier against
barbaric inundations, so that for nearly two hundred years the Romans
were not seriously molested. There still stands in "the Eternal City"
the column which commemorates his victories,--not so beautiful as that
of Trajan, which furnished the model for Napoleon's column in the Place
Vendôme, but still greatly admired. Were he not better known for his
writings, he would be famous as one of the great military emperors,
like Vespasian, Diocletian, and Constantine. Perhaps he did not add to
the art of war; that was perfected by Julius Caesar. It was with the
mechanism of former generals that he withstood most dangerous enemies,
for in his day the legions were still well disciplined and irresistible.

The only stains on the reign of this good and great emperor--for there
were none on his character--were in allowing the elevation of his son
Commodus as his successor, and his persecution of the Christians.

In regard to the first, it was a blunder rather than a fault. Peter the
Great caused _his_ heir to be tried and sentenced to death, because he
was a sot, a liar, and a fool. He dared not intrust the interests of his
Empire to so unworthy a son; the welfare of Russia was more to him than
the interest of his family. In that respect this stern and iron man was
a greater prince than Marcus Aurelius; for the law of succession was not
established at Rome any more than in Russia. There was no danger of
civil war should the natural succession be set aside, as might happen in
the feudal monarchies of Europe. The Emperor of Rome could adopt or
elect his successor. It would have been wise for Aurelius to have
selected one of the ablest of his generals, or one of the wisest of his
senators, as Hadrian did, for so great and responsible a position,
rather than a wicked, cruel, dissolute son. But Commodus was the son of
Faustina also,--an intriguing and wicked woman, whose influence over her
husband was unfortunately great; and, what is common in this world, the
son was more like the mother than the father. (I think the wife of Eli
the high-priest must have been a bad woman.) All his teachings and
virtues were lost on such a reprobate. She, as an unscrupulous and
ambitious woman, had no idea of seeing her son supplanted in the
imperial dignity; and, like Catherine de'Medici and Agrippina, probably
she connived at and even encouraged the vices of her children, in order
more easily to bear rule. At any rate, the succession of Commodus to the
throne was the greatest calamity that could have happened. For five
reigns the Empire had enjoyed peace and prosperity; for five reigns the
tide of corruption had been stayed: but the flood of corruption swept
all barriers away with the accession of Commodus, and from that day the
decline of the Empire was rapid and fatal. Still, probably nothing could
have long arrested ruin. The Empire was doomed.

The other fact which obscured the glory of Marcus Aurelius as a
sovereign was his persecution of the Christians,--for which it is hard
to account, when the beneficent character of the emperor is considered.
His reign was signalized for an imperial persecution, in which Justin at
Rome, Polycarp at Smyrna, and Ponthinus at Lyons, suffered martyrdom. It
was not the first persecution. Under Nero the Christians had been
cruelly tortured, nor did the virtuous Trajan change the policy of the
government. Hadrian and Antoninus Pius permitted the laws to be enforced
against the Christians, and Marcus Aurelius saw no reason to alter them.
But to the mind of the Stoic on the throne, says Arnold, the Christians
were "philosophically contemptible, politically subversive, and morally
abominable." They were regarded as statesmen looked upon the Jesuits in
the reign of Louis XV., as we look upon the Mormons,--as dangerous to
free institutions. Moreover, the Christians were everywhere
misunderstood and misrepresented. It was impossible for Marcus Aurelius
to see the Christians except through a mist of prejudices. "Christianity
grew up in the Catacombs, not on the Palatine." In allowing the laws to
take their course against a body of men who were regarded with distrust
and aversion as enemies of the State, the Emperor was simply
unfortunate. So wise and good a man, perhaps, ought to have known the
Christians better; but, not knowing them, he cannot be stigmatized as a
cruel man. How different the fortunes of the Church had Aurelius been
the first Christian emperor instead of Constantine! Or, had his wife
Faustina known the Christians as well as Marcia the mistress of
Commodus, perhaps the persecution might not have happened,--and perhaps
it might. Earnest and sincere men have often proved intolerant when
their peculiar doctrines have been assailed,--like Athanasius and St.
Bernard. A Stoical philosopher was trained, like a doctor of the Jewish
Sandhedrim, in a certain intellectual pride.

The fame of Marcus Aurelius rests, as it has been said, on his
philosophical reflections, as his "Meditations" attest. This remarkable
book has come down to us, while most of the annals of the age have
perished; so that even Niebuhr confesses that he knows less of the reign
of Marcus Aurelius than of the early kings of Rome. Perhaps that is one
reason why Gibbon begins his history with later emperors. But the
"Meditations" of the good emperor survive, like the writings of
Epictetus, St. Augustine, and Thomas à Kempis: one of the few immortal
books,--immortal, in this case, not for artistic excellence, like the
writings of Thucydides and Tacitus, but for the loftiness of thoughts
alone; so precious that the saints of the Middle Ages secretly preserved
them as in accord with their own experiences. It is from these
"Meditations" that we derive our best knowledge of Marcus Aurelius. They
reveal the man,--and a man of sorrows, as the truly great are apt to be,
when brought in contact with a world of wickedness, as were Alfred
and Dante.

In these "Meditations" there is a striking resemblance to the discourses
of Epictetus, which alike reveal the lofty and yet sorrowful soul, and
are among the most valuable fragments which have come down from Pagan
antiquity; and this is remarkable, since Epictetus was a Phrygian slave,
of the lowest parentage. He belonged to the secretary and companion of
Nero, whose name was Epaphroditus, and who treated this poor Phrygian
with great cruelty. And yet, what is very singular, the master caused
the slave to be indoctrinated in the Stoical philosophy, on account of a
rare intelligence which commanded respect. He was finally manumitted,
but lived all his life in the deepest poverty, to which he attached no
more importance than Socrates did at Athens. In his miserable cottage he
had no other furniture than a straw pallet and an iron lamp, which last
somebody stole. His sole remark on the loss of the only property he
possessed was, that when the thief came again he would be disappointed
to find only an earthen lamp instead of an iron one. This earthen lamp
was subsequently purchased by a hero-worshipper for three thousand
drachmas ($150). Epictetus, much as he despised riches and display and
luxury and hypocrisy and pedantry and all phariseeism, living in the
depths of poverty, was yet admired by eminent men, among whom was the
Emperor Hadrian himself; and he found a disciple in Arrian, who was to
him what Xenophon was to Socrates, committing his precious thoughts to
writing; and these thoughts were to antiquity what the "Imitation of
Christ" was to the Middle Ages,--accepted by Christians as well as by
pagans, and even to-day regarded as one of the most beautiful treatises
on morals ever composed by man. The great peculiarity of the "Manual"
and the "Discourses" is the elevation of the soul over external evils,
the duty of resignation to whatever God sends, and the obligation to do
right because it is right. Epictetus did not go into the dreary
dialectics of the schools, but, like Socrates, confined himself to
practical life,--to the practice of virtue as the greatest good,--and
valued the joys of true intellectual independence. To him his mind was
his fortune, and he desired no better. We do not find in the stoicism of
the Phrygian slave the devout and lofty spiritualism of
Plato,--thirsting for God and immortality; it may be doubted whether he
believed in immortality at all: but he did recognize what is most noble
in human life,--the subservience of the passions to reason, the power of
endurance, patience, charity, and disinterested action. He did recognize
the necessity of divine aid in the struggles of life, the glory of
friendship, the tenderness of compassion, the power of sympathy. His
philosophy was human, and it was cheerful; since he did not believe in
misfortune, and exalted gentleness and philanthropy. Above everything,
he sought inward approval, not the praises of the world,--that happiness
which lies within one's self, in the absence of all ignoble fears, in
contentment, in that peace of the mind which can face poverty, disease,
exile, and death.

Such were the lofty views which, embodied in the discourses of
Epictetus, fell into the hands of Marcus Aurelius in the progress of his
education, and exercised such a great influence on his whole subsequent
life. The slave became the teacher of the emperor,--which it is
impossible to conceive of unless their souls were in harmony. As a
Stoic, the emperor would not be less on his throne than the slave in his
cottage. The trappings and pomps of imperial state became indifferent to
him, since they were external, and were of small moment compared with
that high spiritual life which he desired to lead. If poverty and pain
were nothing to Epictetus, so grandeur and power and luxury should be
nothing to him,--both alike being merely outward things, like the
clothes which cover a man. And the fewer the impediments in the march
after happiness and truth the better. Does a really great and
preoccupied man care what he wears? "A shocking bad hat" was perhaps as
indifferent to Gladstone as a dirty old cloak was to Socrates. I suppose
if a man is known to be brainless, it is necessary for him to wear a
disguise,--even as instinct prompts a frivolous and empty woman to put
on jewels. But who expects a person recognized as a philosopher to use
a mental crutch or wear a moral mask? Who expects an old man, compelling
attention by his wisdom, to dress like a dandy? It is out of place; it
is not even artistic,--it is ridiculous. That only is an evil which
shackles the soul. Aurelius aspired to its complete emancipation. Not
for the joys of a future heaven did he long, but for the realities and
certitudes of earth,--the placidity and harmony and peace of his soul,
so long as it was doomed to the trials and temptations of the world, and
a world, too, which he did not despise, but which he sought to benefit.

So, what was contentment in the slave became philanthropy in the
emperor. He would be a benefactor, not by building baths and theatres,
but by promoting peace, prosperity, and virtue. He would endure
cheerfully the fatigue of winter campaigns upon the frozen Danube, if
the Empire could be saved from violence. To extend its boundaries, like
Julius, he cared nothing; but to preserve what he had was a supreme
duty. His watchword was duty,--to himself, his country, and God. He
lived only for the happiness of his subjects. Benevolence became the law
of his life. Self-abnegation destroyed self-indulgence. For what was he
placed by Providence in the highest position in the world, except to
benefit the world? The happiness of one hundred and twenty millions was
greater than the joys of any individual existence. And what were any
pleasures which ended in vanity to the sublime placidity of an
emancipated soul? Stoicism, if it did not soar to God and immortality,
yet aspired to the freedom and triumph of what is most precious in man.
And it equally despised, with haughty scorn, those things which
corrupted and degraded this higher nature,--the glorious dignity of
unfettered intellect. The accidents of earth were nothing in his
eyes,--neither the purple of kings nor the rags of poverty. It was the
soul, in its transcendent dignity, which alone was to be preserved
and purified.

This was the exalted realism which appears in the "Meditations" of
Marcus Aurelius, and which he had learned from the inspirations of a
slave. Yet such was the inborn, almost supernatural, loftiness of
Aurelius, that, had he been the slave and Epictetus the emperor, the
same moral wisdom would have shone in the teachings and life of each;
for they both were God's witnesses of truth in an age of wickedness and
shame. It was He who chose them both, and sent them out as teachers of
righteousness,--the one from the humblest cottage, the other from the
most magnificent palace of the capital of the world. In station they
were immeasurably apart; in aim and similarity of ideas they were
kindred spirits,--one of the phenomena of the moral history of our race;
for the slave, in his physical degradation, had all the freedom and
grandeur of an aspiring soul, and the emperor, on his lofty throne, had
all the humility and simplicity of a peasant in the lowliest state of
poverty and suffering. Surely circumstances had nothing to do with this
marvellous exhibition. It was either the mind and soul triumphant over
and superior to all outward circumstances, or it was God imparting an
extraordinary moral power.

I believe it was the inscrutable design of the Supreme Governor of the
universe to show, perhaps, what lessons of moral wisdom could be taught
by men under the most diverse influences and under the greatest
contrasts of rank and power, and also to what heights the souls of both
slave and king could rise, with His aid, in the most corrupt period of
human history. Noah, Abraham, and Moses did not stand more isolated
amidst universal wickedness than did the Phrygian slave and the imperial
master of the world. And as the piety of Noah could not save the
antediluvian empires, as the faith of Abraham could not convert
idolatrous nations, as the wisdom of Moses could not prevent the
sensualism of emancipated slaves, so the lofty philosophy of Aurelius
could not save the Empire which he ruled. And yet the piety of Noah, the
faith of Abraham, the wisdom of Moses, and the stoicism of Aurelius have
proved alike a spiritual power,--the precious salt which was to preserve
humanity from the putrefaction of almost universal selfishness and vice,
until the new revelation should arouse the human soul to a more serious
contemplation of its immortal destiny.

The imperial "Meditations" are without art or arrangement,--a sort of
diary, valuable solely for their precious thoughts; not lofty soarings
in philosophical and religious contemplation, which tax the brain to
comprehend, like the thoughts of Pascal, but plain maxims for the daily
intercourse of life, showing great purity of character and extraordinary
natural piety, blended with pithy moral wisdom and a strong sense of
duty. "Men exist for each other: teach them or bear with them," said he.
"Benevolence is invincible, if it be not an affected smile." "When thou
risest in the morning unwillingly, say, 'I am rising to the work of a
human being; why, then, should I be dissatisfied if I am going to do the
things for which I was brought into the world?'" "Since it is possible
that thou mayest depart from this life this very moment, regulate every
act and thought accordingly (... for death hangs over thee whilst thou
livest), while it is in thy power to be good." "What has become of all
great and famous men, and all they desired and loved? They are smoke and
ashes, and a tale." "If thou findest in human life anything better than
justice, temperance, fortitude, turn to it with all thy soul; but if
thou findest anything else smaller (and of no value) than this, give
place to nothing else." "Men seek retreats for themselves,--houses in
the country, seashores, and mountains; but it is always in thy power to
retire within thyself, for nowhere does a man retire with more quiet or
freedom than into his own soul." Think of such sayings, written down in
his diary on the evenings of the very days of battle with the barbarians
on the Danube or in Hungarian marshes! Think of a man, O ye Napoleons,
ye conquerors, who can thus muse and meditate in his silent tent, and by
the light of his solitary lamp, after a day of carnage and of victory!
Think of such a man,--not master of a little barbaric island or a
half-established throne in a country no bigger than a small province,
but the supreme sovereign of a vast empire, at the time of its greatest
splendor and prosperity, with no mortal power to keep his will in
check,--nothing but the voice within him; nothing but the sense of duty;
nothing but the desire of promoting the happiness of others: and this
man a Pagan!

But the state of that Empire, with all its prosperity, needed such a man
to arise. If anything or anybody could save it, it was that succession
of good emperors of whom Marcus Aurelius was the last, in the latter
part of the second century. Let us glance, in closing, at the real
condition of the Empire at that time. I take leave of the man,--this
"laurelled hero and crowned philosopher," stretching out his hands to
the God he but dimly saw, and yet enunciating moral truths which for
wisdom have been surpassed only by the sacred writers of the Bible, to
whom the Almighty gave his special inspiration. I turn reluctantly from
him to the Empire he governed.

Gibbon says, in his immortal History, "If a man were called to fix the
period in the history of the world during which the condition of the
human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation,
name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of

This is the view that Gibbon takes of the prosperity of the old Roman
world under such princes as the Antonines. Niebuhr, however, a greater
critic, though not so great an artist, takes a different view; and both
are great authorities. If Gibbon meant simply that this period was the
happiest and most prosperous during the imperial reigns, he may not have
been far from the truth, according to his standpoint of what human
happiness consists in,--that external prosperity which was the blessing
of the Old Testament, and which Macaulay exalts as proudly as Gibbon
before him. There _was_ this external prosperity, so far as we know, and
we know but little aside from monuments and medals. Even Tacitus shrank
from writing contemporaneous history, and the period he could have
painted is to us dark, mysterious, and unknown. Still, it is generally
supposed and conceded that the Empire at this time was outwardly
splendid and prosperous. Certainly there was a period of peace, when no
wars troubled the State but those which were distant,--on the very
confines of the Empire, and that with rude barbarians, no more
formidable in the eyes of the luxurious citizens of the capital than a
revolt of the Sepoys to the eyes of the citizens of London, or Indian
raids among the Rocky Mountains to the eyes of the people of New York.
And there was the reign of law and order, a most grateful thing to those
who had read of the conspiracy of Catiline and the tumults of Clodius,
two hundred and fifty years before. And there was doubtless a
magnificent material civilization which promised to be eternal, and of
which every Roman was proud. There was a centralization of power in the
Eternal City such as had never been seen before and has never been seen
since,--a solid Empire so large that the Mediterranean, which it
enclosed, was a mere central lake, around the vast circuit of whose
shores were temples and palaces and villas of unspeakable beauty, and
where a busy population pursued unmolested its various trades. There was
commerce on every river which empties itself into this vast basin; there
were manufactures in every town, and there were agricultural skill and
abundance in every province. The plains of Egypt and Mesopotamia
rejoiced in the richest harvests of wheat; the hills of Syria and Gaul,
and Spain and Italy, were covered with grape-vines and olives. Italy
boasted of fifty kinds of wine, and Gaul produced the same vegetables
that are known at the present day. All kinds of fruit were plenty and
luscious in every province. There were game-preserves and fish-ponds and
groves. There were magnificent roads between all the great cities,--an
uninterrupted highway, mostly paved, from York to Jerusalem. The
productions of the East were consumed in the West, for ships whitened
the sea, bearing their precious gems, and ivory, and spices, and
perfumes, and silken fabrics, and carpets, and costly vessels of gold
and silver, and variegated marbles; and all the provinces of an empire
which extended fifteen hundred miles from north to south and three
thousand from east to west were dotted with cities, some of which almost
rivalled the imperial capital in size and magnificence. The little
island of Rhodes contained twenty-three thousand statues, and Antioch
had a street four miles in length, with double colonnades throughout its
whole extent. The temple of Ephesus covered as much ground as does the
cathedral of Cologne, and the library of Alexandria numbered seven
hundred thousand volumes. Rome, the proud metropolis, had a diameter of
eleven miles, and was forty-five miles in circuit, with a population,
according to Lipsius, larger than modern London. It had seventeen
thousand palaces, thirty theatres, nine thousand baths, and eleven
amphitheatres,--one of which could seat eighty-seven thousand
spectators. The gilding of the roof of the capitol cost fifteen millions
of our money. The palace of Nero was more extensive than Versailles. The
mausoleum of Hadrian became the most formidable fortress of Mediaeval
times. And then, what gold and silver vessels ornamented every palace,
what pictures and statues enriched every room, what costly and gilded
and carved furniture was the admiration of every guest, what rich
dresses decorated the women who supped at gorgeous tables of solid
silver, whose very sandals were ornamented with precious stones, and
whose necks were hung with priceless pearls and rubies and diamonds!
Paulina wore a pearl which, it is said, cost two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars of our money. All the masterpieces of antiquity were
collected in this centre of luxury and pride,--all those arts which made
Greece immortal, and which we can only copy. What vast structures,
ornamented with pillars and marble statues, were crowded together near
the Forum and Capitoline Hill! The museums of Italy contain to-day
twenty thousand specimens of ancient sculpture, which no modern artist
could improve. More than a million of dollars were paid for a single
picture for the imperial bed-chamber,--for painting was carried to as
great perfection as sculpture.

Such were the arts of the Pagan city, such the material civilization in
all the cities; and these cities were guarded by soldiers who were
trained to the utmost perfection of military discipline, and presided
over by governors as elegant, as polished, and as intelligent as the
courtiers of Louis XIV. The genius for war was only equalled by genius
for government. How well administered were all the provinces! The Romans
spread their laws, their language, and their institutions everywhere
without serious opposition. They were great civilizers, as the English
have been. "Law" became as great an idea as "glory;" and so perfect was
the mechanism of government that the happiness of the people was
scarcely affected by the character of the emperors. Jurisprudence, the
indigenous science of the Romans, is still studied and adopted for its
political wisdom.

Such was the civilization of the Roman world in the time of Marcus
Aurelius,--that external grandeur, that outward prosperity, to which
Gibbon points with such admiration and pride, and to which he ascribed
the highest happiness which the world has ever enjoyed. Far different,
probably, would have been the verdict of the good and contemplative
emperor who then ruled the civilized world, when he saw the luxury, the
pride, the sensuality, the selfishness, the irreligion, the worldliness,
which marked all classes; producing vices too horrible to be even
named, and undermining the moral health, and secretly and surely
preparing the way for approaching violence and ruin.

What, then, is the reverse of the picture which Gibbon admired? What
established facts have we as an offset to these gilded material glories?
What should be the true judgment of mankind as to this lauded period?

The historian speaks of peace, and the prosperity which naturally flowed
from it in the uninterrupted pursuit of the ordinary occupations of
life. This is indisputable. There was the increase of wealth, the
enjoyment of security, the absence of fears, and the reign of law. Life
and property were guarded. A man could travel from one part of the
Empire to the other without fear of robbers or assassins. All these
things are great blessings. Materially we have no higher civilization.
But with peace and prosperity were idleness, luxury, gambling,
dissipation, extravagance, and looseness of morals of which we have no
conception, and which no subsequent age of the world has seen. It was
the age of most scandalous monopolies, and disproportionate fortunes,
and abandonment to the pleasures of sense. Any Roman governor could make
a fortune in a year; and his fortune was spent in banquets and fêtes and
races and costly wines, and enormous retinues of slaves. The theatres,
the chariot races, the gladiatorial shows, the circus, and the sports
of the amphitheatre were then at their height. The central spring of
society was money, since it purchased everything which Epicureanism
valued. No dignitary was respected for his office,--only for the salary
or gains which his office brought. All professions which were not
lucrative gradually fell into disrepute; and provided they were
lucrative, it was of no consequence whether or not they were infamous.
Dancers, cooks, and play-actors received the highest consideration,
since their earnings were large. Scholars, poets, and philosophers--what
few there were--pined in attics. Epictetus lived in a miserable cottage
with only a straw pallet and a single lamp. Women had no education, and
were disgracefully profligate; even the wife of Marcus Aurelius (the
daughter of Antoninus Pius) was one of the most abandoned women of the
age, notwithstanding all the influence of their teachings and example.
Slavery was so great an institution that half of the population were
slaves. There were sixty millions of them in the Empire, and they were
generally treated with brutal cruelty. The master of Epictetus, himself
a scholar and philosopher, broke wantonly the leg of his illustrious
slave to see how well he could bear pain. There were no public
charities. The poor and miserable and sick were left to perish unheeded
and unrelieved. Even the free citizens were fed at the public expense,
not as a charity, but to prevent revolts. About two thousand people
owned the whole civilized world, and their fortunes were spent in
demoralizing it. What if their palaces were grand, and their villas
beautiful, and their dresses magnificent, and their furniture costly, if
their lives were spent in ignoble and enervating pleasures, as is
generally admitted. There was a low religious life, almost no religion
at all, and what there was was degrading by its superstition.
Everywhere were seen the rites of magical incantations, the pretended
virtue of amulets and charms, soothsayers laughing at their own
predictions,--nowhere the worship of the _one God_ who created the
heaven and the earth, nor even a genuine worship of the Pagan deities,
but a general spirit of cynicism and atheism. What does St. Paul say of
the Romans when he was a prisoner in the precincts of the imperial
palace, and at a time of no greater demoralization? We talk of the
glories of jurisprudence; but what was the practical operation of laws
when such a harmless man as Paul could be brought to trial, and perhaps
execution! What shall we say of the boasted justice, when judgments were
rendered on technical points, and generally in favor of those who had
the longest purses; so that it was not only expensive to go to law, but
so expensive that it was ruinous? What could be hoped of laws, however
good, when they were made the channels of extortion, when the
occupation of the Bench itself was the great instrument by which
powerful men protected their monopolies? We speak of the glories of art;
but art was prostituted to please the lower tastes and inflame the
passions. The most costly pictures were hung up in the baths, and were
disgracefully indecent. Even literature was directed to the flattery of
tyrants and rich men. There was no manly protest from literary men
against the increasing vices of society,--not even from the
philosophers. Philosophy continually declined, like literature and art.
Nothing strikes us more forcibly than the absence of genius in the
second century. There was no reward for genius except when it flattered
and pandered to what was demoralizing. Who dared to utter manly protests
in the Senate? Who discussed the principles of government? Who would
venture to utter anything displeasing to the imperial masters of the
world? In this age of boundless prosperity, where were the great poets,
where the historians, where the writers on political economy, where the
moralists? For one hundred years there were scarcely ten eminent men in
any department of literature whose writings have come down to us. There
was the most marked decay in all branches of knowledge, except in that
knowledge which could be utilized for making money. The imperial régime
cast a dismal shadow over all the efforts of independent genius, on all
lofty aspirations, on all individual freedom. Architects, painters, and
sculptors there were in abundance, and they were employed and well paid;
but where were poets, scholars, sages?--where were politicians even? The
great and honored men were the tools of emperors,--the prefects of their
guards, the generals of their armies, the architects of their palaces,
the purveyors of their banquets. If the emperor happened to be a good
administrator of this complicated despotism, he was sustained, like
Tiberius, whatever his character. If he was weak or frivolous, he was
removed by assassination. It was a government of absolute physical
forces, and it is most marvellous that such a man as Marcus Aurelius
could have been its representative. And what could he have done with his
philosophical inquiries had he not also been a great general and a
practical administrator,--a man of business as well as a man of thought?

But I cannot enumerate the evils which coexisted with all the boasted
prosperity of the Empire, and which were preparing the way for
ruin,--evils so disgraceful and universal that Christianity made no
impression at all on society at large, and did not modify a law or
remove a single object of scandal. Do you call that state of society
prosperous and happy when half of the population was in base bondage to
cruel masters; when women generally were degraded and slighted; when
money was the object of universal idolatry; when the only pleasures
were in banquets and races and other demoralizing sports; when no value
was placed upon the soul, and infinite value on the body; when there was
no charity, no compassion, no tenderness; when no poor man could go to
law; when no genius was encouraged unless for utilitarian ends; when
genius was not even appreciated or understood, still less rewarded; when
no man dared to lift up his voice against any crying evil, especially of
a political character; when the whole civilized world was fettered,
deceived, and mocked, and made to contribute to the power, pleasure, and
pride of a single man and the minions upon whom he smiled? Is all this
to be overlooked in our estimate of human happiness? Is there nothing to
be considered but external glories which appeal to the senses alone?
Shall our eyes be diverted from the operation of moral law and the
inevitable consequences of its violation? Shall we blind ourselves to
the future condition of our families and our country in our estimate of
happiness? Shall we ignore, in the dazzling life of a few favored
extortioners, monopolists, and successful gamblers all that Christianity
points out as the hope and solace and glory of mankind? Not thus would
we estimate human felicity. Not thus would Marcus Aurelius, as he cast
his sad and prophetic eye down the vistas of succeeding reigns, and saw
the future miseries and wars and violence which were the natural result
of egotism and vice, have given his austere judgment on the happiness of
his Empire. In all his sweetness and serenity, he penetrated the veil
which the eye of the worldly Gibbon could not pierce. _He_ declares that
"those things which are most valued are empty, rotten, and
trifling,"--these are his very words; and that the real _life_ of the
people, even in the days of Trajan, had ceased to exist,--that
everything truly precious was lost in the senseless grasp after what can
give no true happiness or permanent prosperity.


The "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius; Epictetus should be read in
connection. Renan's Life of Marcus Aurelius. Farrar's Seekers after God.
Arnold has also written some interesting things about this emperor. In
Smith's Dictionary there is an able article. Gibbon says something, but
not so much as we could wish. Tillemont, in his History of the Emperors,
says more. I would also refer my readers to my "Old Roman World," to
Sismondi's Fall of the Roman Empire, and to Montesquieu's treatise on
the Decadence of the Romans. The original Roman authorities which have
come down to us are meagre and few.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 272-337.


One of the links in the history of civilization is the reign of
Constantine, not unworthily called the Great, since it would be
difficult to find a greater than he among the Roman emperors, after
Julius Caesar, while his labors were by far more beneficent. A new era
began with his illustrious reign,--the triumph of Christianity as the
established religion of the crumbling Empire. Under his enlightened
protection the Church, persecuted from the time of Nero, and never
fashionable or popular, or even powerful as an institution, arose
triumphant, defiant, almost militant, with new passions and interests;
ambitious, full of enthusiasm, and with unbounded hope,--a great
spiritual power, whose authority even princes and nobles were at last
unable to withstand. No longer did the Christians live in catacombs and
hiding-places; no longer did they sing their mournful songs over the
bleeding and burning bodies of the saints, but arose in the majesty of
a new and irresistible power,--temporal as well as spiritual,--breathing
vengeance on ancient foes, grasping great dignities, seizing the
revenues of princes, and proclaiming the sovereignty of their invisible
King. In defence of their own doctrines they became fierce, arrogant,
dogmatic, contentious,--not with sword in one hand and crucifix in the
other, like the warlike popes and bishops of mediaeval Europe, but with
intense theological hatreds, and austere contempt of those luxuries and
pleasures which had demoralized society.

The last great act of Diocletian--one of the ablest and most warlike of
the emperors--was an unrelenting and desperate persecution of the
Christians, whose religion had been steadily gaining ground for two
centuries, in spite of martyrdoms and anathemas; and this was so severe
and universal that it seemed to be successful. But he had no sooner
retired from the government of the world (A.D. 305) than the faith he
supposed he had suppressed forever sprung up with new force, and defied
any future attempt to crush it.

The vitality of the new religion had been preserved in ages of
unparalleled vices by two things especially,--by martyrdom and by
austerities; the one a noble attestation of faith in an age of unbelief,
and the other a lofty, almost stoical, disdain of those pleasures which
centre in the body.

The martyrs cheerfully and heroically endured physical sufferings in
view of the glorious crown of which they were assured in the future
world. They lived in the firm conviction of immortality, and that
eternal happiness was connected indissolubly with their courage,
intrepidity, and patience in bearing testimony to the divine character
and mission of Him who had shed his blood for the remission of sins. No
sufferings were of any account in comparison with those of Him who died
for them. Filled with transports of love for the divine Redeemer, who
rescued them from the despair of Paganism, and bound with ties of
supreme allegiance to Him as the Conqueror and Saviour of the world,
they were ready to meet death in any form for his sake. They had become,
by professing Him as their Lord and Sovereign, soldiers of the Cross,
ready to endure any sacrifices for his sacred cause.

Thus enthusiasm was kindled in a despairing and unbelieving world. And
probably the world never saw, in any age, such devotion and zeal for an
invisible power. It was animated by the hope of a glorious immortality,
of which Christianity alone, of all ancient religions, inspired a firm
conviction. In this future existence were victory and blessedness
everlasting,--not to be had unless one was faithful unto death. This
sublime faith--this glorious assurance of future happiness, this
devotion to an unseen King--made a strong impression on those who
witnessed the physical torments which the sufferers bore with
unspeakable triumph. There must be, they thought, something in a
religion which could take away the sting of death and rob the grave of
its victory. The noble attestation of faith in Jesus did perhaps more
than any theological teachings towards the conversion of men to
Christianity. And persecution and isolation bound the Christians
together in bonds of love and harmony, and kept them from the
temptations of life There was a sort of moral Freemasonry among the
despised and neglected followers of Christ, such as has not been seen
before or since. They were _in_ the world but not _of_ the world. They
were the precious salt to preserve what was worth preserving in a
rapidly dissolving Empire. They formed a new power, which would be
triumphant amid the universal destruction of old institutions; for the
soul would be saved, and Christianity taught that the soul was
everything,--that nothing could be given in exchange for it.

The other influence which seemed to preserve the early Christians from
the overwhelming materialism of the times was the asceticism which so
early became prevalent. It had not been taught by Jesus, but seemed to
arise from the necessities of the times. It was a fierce protest against
the luxuries of an enervated age. The passion for dress and ornament,
and the indulgence of the appetites and other pleasures which pampered
the body, and which were universal, were a hindrance to the enjoyment of
that spiritual life which Christianity unfolded. As the soul was
immortal and the body was mortal, that which was an impediment to the
welfare of what was most precious was early denounced. In order to
preserve the soul from the pollution of material pleasures, a strenuous
protest was made. Hence that defiance of the pleasures of sense which
gave loftiness and independence of character soon became a recognized
and cardinal virtue. The Christian stood aloof from the banquets and
luxuries which undermined the virtues on which the strength of man is
based. The characteristic vices of the Pagan world were unchastity and
fondness for the pleasures of the table. To these were added the lesser
vices of display and ornaments in dress. From these the Christian fled
as fatal enemies to his spiritual elevation. I do not believe it was the
ascetic ideas imported from India, such as marked the Brahmins, nor the
visionary ideas of the Sufis and the Buddhists, and of other Oriental
religionists, which gave the impulse to monastic life and led to the
austerities of the Church in the second and third centuries, so much as
the practical evils with which every one was conversant, and which were
plainly antagonistic to the doctrine that the life is more than meat.
The triumph of the mind over the body excited an admiration scarcely
less marked than the voluntary sacrifice of life to a sacred cause.
Asceticism, repulsive in many of its aspects, and even unnatural and
inhuman, drew a cordon around the Christians, and separated them from
the sensualities of ordinary life. It was a reproof as well as a
protest. It attacked Epicureanism in its most vulnerable point. "How
hardly shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God?" Hence
the voluntary poverty, the giving away of inherited wealth to the poor,
the extreme simplicity of living, and even retirement from the
habitations of men, which marked the more earnest of the new believers.
Hence celibacy, and avoidance of the society of women,--all to resist
most dangerous temptation. Hence the vows of poverty and chastity which
early entered monastic life,--a life favorable to ascetic virtues. These
were indeed perverted. Everything good is perverted in this world.
Self-expiations, flagellations, sheepskin cloaks, root dinners,
repulsive austerities, followed. But these grew out of the noble desire
to keep unspotted from the world. And unless this desire had been
encouraged by the leaders of the Church, the Christian would soon have
been contaminated with the vices of Paganism, especially such as were
fashionable,--as is deplorably the case in our modern times, when it is
so difficult to draw the line between those who do not and those who do
openly profess the Christian faith. It is quite probable that
Christianity would not have triumphed over Paganism, had not
Christianity made so strong a protest against those vices and fashions
which were peculiar to an Epicurean age and an Epicurean philosophy.

It was at this period, when Christianity was a great spiritual power,
that Constantine arose. He was born at Naissus, in Dacia, A.D. 274, his
father being a soldier of fortune, and his mother the daughter of an
innkeeper. He was eighteen when his father, Constantius, was promoted by
the Emperor Diocletian to the dignity of Caesar,--a sort of
lieutenant-emperor,--and early distinguished himself in the Egyptian and
Persian wars. He was thirty-one when he joined his father in Britain,
whom he succeeded, soon after, in the imperial dignity. Like Theodosius,
he was tall, and majestic in manners; gracious, affable, and accessible,
like Julius; prudent, cautious, reticent, like Fabius; insensible to the
allurements of pleasure, and incredibly active and bold, like Hannibal,
Charlemagne, and Napoleon; a politic man, disposed to ally himself with
the rising party. The first few years of his reign, which began in A.D.
306, were devoted to the establishment of his power in Britain, where
the flower of the Western army was concentrated,--foreseeing a desperate
contest with the five rivals who shared between them the Empire which
Diocletian had divided; which division, though possibly a necessity in
those turbulent times, would yet seem to have been an unwise thing,
since it led to civil wars and rivalries, and struggles for supremacy.
It is a mistake to divide a great empire, unless mechanism is worn out,
and a central power is impossible. The tendency of modern civilization
is to a union of States, when their language and interests and
institutions are identical. Yet Diocletian was wearied and oppressed by
the burdens of State, and retired disgusted, dividing the Empire into
two parts, the Eastern and Western. But there were subdivisions in
consequence, and civil wars; and had the policy of Diocletian been
continued, the Empire might have been subdivided, like Charlemagne's,
until central power would have been destroyed, as in the Middle Ages.
But Constantine aimed at a general union of the East and West once
again, partly from the desire of centralization, and partly from
ambition. The military career of Constantine for about seventeen years
was directed to the establishment of his power in Britain, to the
reunion of the Empire, and the subjugation of his colleagues,--a long
series of disastrous civil wars. These wars are without poetic
interest,--in this respect unlike the wars between Caesar and Pompey,
and that between Octavius and Antony. The wars of Caesar inaugurated the
imperial régime when the Empire was young and in full vigor, and when
military discipline was carried to perfection; those of Constantine
were in the latter days of the Empire, when it was impossible to
reanimate it, and all things were tending rapidly to dissolution,--an
exceedingly gloomy period, when there were neither statesmen nor
philosophers nor poets nor men of genius, of historic fame, outside the
Church. Therefore I shall not dwell on these uninteresting wars, brought
about by the ambition of six different emperors, all of whom were aiming
for undivided sovereignty. There were in the West Maximian, the old
colleague of Diocletian, who had resigned with him, but who had
reassumed the purple; his son, Maxentius, elevated by the Roman Senate
and the Praetorian Guard,--a dissolute and imbecile young man, who
reigned over Italy; and Constantine, who possessed Gaul and Britain. In
the East were Galerius, who had married the daughter of Diocletian, and
who was a general of considerable ability; Licinius, who had the
province of Illyricum; and Maximin, who reigned over Syria and Egypt.

The first of these emperors who was disposed of was Maximian, the father
of Maxentius and father-in-law of Constantine. He was regarded as a
usurper, and on the capture of Marseilles, he under pressure of
Constantine committed suicide by strangulation, A.D. 310. Galerius did
not long survive, being afflicted with a loathsome disease, the result
of intemperance and gluttony, and died in his palace in Nicomedia, in
Bithynia, the capital of the Eastern provinces. The next emperor who
fell was Maxentius, after a desperate struggle in Italy with
Constantine,--whose passage over the Alps, and successive victories at
Susa (at the foot of Mont Cenis, on the plains of Turin), at Verona, and
Saxa Rubra, nine miles from Rome, from which Maxentius fled, only to
perish in the Tiber, remind us of the campaigns of Hannibal and
Napoleon. The triumphal arch which the victor erected at Rome to
commemorate his victories still remains as a monument of the decline of
Art in the fourth century. As a result of the conquest over Maxentius,
the Praetorian guards were finally abolished, which gave a fatal blow to
the Senate, and left the capital disarmed and exposed to future insults
and dangers.

The next emperor who disappeared from the field was Maximin, who had
embarked in a civil war with Licinius. He died at Tarsus, after an
unsuccessful contest, A.D. 313; and there were left only Licinius and
Constantine,--the former of whom reigned in the East and the latter in
the West. Scarcely a year elapsed before these two emperors embarked in
a bloody contest for the sovereignty of the world. Licinius was beaten,
but was allowed the possession of Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt.
A hollow reconciliation was made between them, which lasted eight years,
during which Constantine was engaged in the defence of his empire from
the hostile attacks of the Goths in Illyricum. He gained great
victories over these barbarians, and chased them beyond the Danube. He
then turned against Licinius, and the bloody battle of Adrianople, A.D.
323, when three hundred thousand combatants were engaged, followed by a
still more bloody one on the heights of Chrysopolis, A.D. 324, made
Constantine supreme master of the Empire thirty-seven years after
Diocletian had divided his power with Maximian.

The great events of his reign as sole emperor, with enormous prestige as
a general, second only to that of Julius Caesar, were the foundation of
Constantinople and the establishment of Christianity as the religion of
the Empire.

The ancient Byzantium, which Constantine selected as the new capital of
his Empire, had been no inconsiderable city for nearly one thousand
years, being founded only ninety-seven years after Rome itself. Yet,
notwithstanding its magnificent site,--equally favorable for commerce
and dominion,--its advantages were not appreciated until the genius of
Constantine selected it as the one place in his vast dominions which
combined a central position and capacities for defence against invaders.
It was also a healthy locality, being exposed to no malarial poisons,
like the "Eternal City." It was delightfully situated, on the confines
of Europe and Asia, between the Euxine and the Mediterranean, on a
narrow peninsula washed by the Sea of Marmora and the beautiful harbor
called the Golden Horn, inaccessible from Asia except by water, while it
could be made impregnable on the west. The narrow waters of the
Hellespont and the Bosporus, the natural gates of the city, could be
easily defended against hostile fleets both from the Euxine and the
Mediterranean, leaving the Propontis (the deep, well-harbored body of
water lying between the two straits, in modern times called the Sea of
Marmora) with an inexhaustible supply of fish, and its shores lined with
vineyards and gardens. Doubtless this city is more favored by nature for
commerce, for safety, and for dominion, than any other spot on the face
of the earth; and we cannot wonder that Russia should cast greedy eyes
upon it as one of the centres of its rapidly increasing Empire. This
beautiful site soon rivalled the old capital of the Empire in riches and
population, for Constantine promised great privileges to those who would
settle in it; and he ransacked and despoiled the cities of Italy,
Greece, and Asia Minor of what was most precious in Art to make his new
capital attractive, and to ornament his new palaces, churches, and
theatres. In this Grecian city he surrounded himself with Asiatic pomp
and ceremonies. He assumed the titles of Eastern monarchs. His palace
was served and guarded with a legion of functionaries that made access
to his person difficult. He created a new nobility, and made infinite
gradations of rank, perpetuated by the feudal monarchs of Europe. He
gave pompous names to his officers, both civil and military, using
expressions still in vogue in European courts, like "Your Excellency,"
"Your Highness," and "Your Majesty,"--names which the emperors who had
reigned at Rome had uniformly disdained. He cut himself loose from all
the traditions of the past, especially all relics of republicanism. He
divided the civil government of the Empire into thirteen great dioceses,
and these he subdivided into one hundred and sixteen provinces. He
separated the civil from the military functions of governors. He
installed eunuchs in his palace, to wait upon his person and perform
menial offices. He made his chamberlain one of the highest officers of
State. He guarded his person by bodies of cavalry and infantry. He
clothed himself in imposing robes; elaborately arranged his hair; wore a
costly diadem; ornamented his person with gems and pearls, with collars
and bracelets. He lived, in short, more like a Heliogabalus than a
Trajan or an Aurelian. All traces of popular liberty were effaced. All
dignities and honors and offices emanated from him. The Caesars had been
absolute monarchs, but disguised their power. Constantine made an
ostentatious display of his. Moreover he increased the burden of
taxation throughout the Empire. The last fourteen years of his reign
was a period of apparent prosperity, but the internal strength of the
Empire and the character of the emperor sadly degenerated. He became
effeminate, and committed crimes which sullied his fame. He executed his
oldest son on mere suspicion of crime, and on a charge of infidelity
even put to death the wife with whom he had lived for twenty years, and
who was the mother of future emperors.

But if he had great faults he had also great virtues. No emperor since
Augustus had a more enlightened mind, and no one ever reigned at Rome
who, in one important respect, did so much for the cause of
civilization. Constantine is most lauded as the friend and promoter of
Christianity. It is by his service to the Church that he has won the
name of the first Christian emperor. His efforts in behalf of the Church
throw into the shade all the glory he won as a general and as a
statesman. The real interest of his reign centres in his Christian
legislation, and in those theological controversies in which he
interfered. With Constantine began the enthronement of Christianity, and
for one thousand years what is most vital in European history is
connected with Christian institutions and doctrines.

It was when he was marching against Maxentius that his conversion to
Christianity took place, A.D. 312, when he was thirty-eight, in the
sixth year of his reign. Up to this period he was a zealous Pagan, and
made magnificent offerings to the gods of his ancestors, and erected
splendid temples, especially in honor of Apollo. The turn of his mind
was religious, or, as we are taught by modern science to say,
superstitious. He believed in omens, dreams, visions, and supernatural

Now it was in a very critical period of his campaign against his Pagan
rival, on the eve of an important battle, as he was approaching Rome for
the first time, filled with awe of its greatness and its recollections,
that he saw--or fancied he saw--a little after noon, just above the sun
which he worshipped, a bright Cross, with this inscription, [Greek: En
touto nika]--"In this conquer;" and in the following night, when sleep
had overtaken him, he dreamed that Christ appeared to him, and enjoined
him to make a banner in the shape of the celestial sign which he had
seen. Such is the legend, unhesitatingly received for centuries, yet
which modern critics are not disposed to accept as a miracle, although
attested by Eusebius, and confirmed by the emperor himself on oath.
Whether some supernatural sign really appeared or not, or whether some
natural phenomenon appeared in the heavens in the form of an illuminated
Cross, it is not worth while to discuss. We know this, however, that if
the greatest religious revolution of antiquity was worthy to be
announced by special signs and wonders, it was when a Roman emperor of
extraordinary force of character declared his intention to acknowledge
and serve the God of the persecuted Christians. The miracle rests on the
authority of a single bishop, as sacredly attested by the emperor, in
whom he saw no fault; but the fact of the conversion remains as one of
the most signal triumphs of Christianity, and the conversion itself was
the most noted and important in its results since that of Saul of
Tarsus. It may have been from conviction, and it may have been from
policy. It may have been merely that he saw, in the vigorous vitality of
the Christian principle of devotion to a single Person, a healthier
force for the unification of his great empire than in the disintegrating
vices of Paganism. But, whatever his motive, his action stirred up the
enthusiasm of a body of men which gave the victory of the Milvian
Bridge. All that was vital in the Empire was found among the
Christians,--already a powerful and rising party, that persecution could
not put down. Constantine became the head and leader of this party,
whose watchword ever since has been "Conquer," until all powers and
principalities and institutions are brought under the influence of the
gospel. So far as we know, no one has ever doubted the sincerity of
Constantine. Whatever were his faults, especially that of gluttony,
which he was never able to overcome, he was ever afterwards strict and
fervent in his devotions. He employed his evenings in the study of the
Scriptures, as Marcus Aurelius meditated on the verities of a spiritual
life after the fatigues and dangers of the day. He was not so good a man
as was the pious Antoninus, who would, had _he_ been converted to
Christianity, have given to it a purer and loftier legislation. It may
be doubted whether Aurelius would have made popes of bishops, or would
have invested metaphysical distinctions in theology with so great an
authority. But the magnificent patronage which Constantine gave to the
clergy was followed by greater and more enlightened sovereigns than
he,--by Theodosius, by Charlemagne, and by Alfred; while the dogmas
which were defended by Athanasius with such transcendent ability at the
council where the emperor presided in person, formed an anchor to the
faith in the long and dreary period when barbarism filled Europe with
desolation and fear.

Constantine, as a Roman emperor, exercised the supreme right of
legislation,--the highest prerogative of men in power. So that his acts
as legislator naturally claim our first notice. His edicts were laws
which could not be gainsaid or resisted. They were like the laws of the
Medes and Persians, except that they could be repealed or modified.

One of the first things he did after his conversion was to issue an
edict of toleration, which secured the Christians from any further
persecution,--an act of immeasurable benefit to humanity, yet what any
man would naturally have done in his circumstances. If he could have
inaugurated the reign of toleration for all religious opinions, he would
have been a still greater benefactor. But it was something to free a
persecuted body of believers who had been obliged to hide or suffer for
two hundred years. By the edict of Milan, A.D. 313, he secured the
revenues as well as the privileges of the Church, and restored to the
Christians the lands and houses of which they had been stripped by the
persecution of Diocletian. Eight years later he allowed persons to
bequeath property to Christian institutions and churches. He assigned in
every city an allowance of corn in behalf of charities to the poor. He
confirmed the clergy in the right of being tried in their own courts and
by their peers, when accused of crime,--a great privilege in the fourth
century, but a great abuse in the fourteenth. The arbitration of bishops
had the force of positive law, and judges were instructed to execute the
episcopal decrees. He transferred to the churches the privilege of
sanctuary granted to those fleeing from justice in the Mosaic
legislation. He ordained that Sunday should be set apart for religious
observances in all the towns and cities of the Empire. He abolished
crucifixion as a punishment. He prohibited gladiatorial games. He
discouraged slavery, infanticide, and easy divorces. He allowed the
people to choose their own ministers, nor did he interfere in the
election of bishops. He exempted the clergy from all services to the
State, from all personal taxes, and all municipal duties. He seems to
have stood in awe of bishops, and to have treated them with great
veneration and respect, giving to them lands and privileges, enriching
their churches with ornaments, and securing to the clergy an ample
support. So prosperous was the Church under his beneficence, that the
average individual income of the eighteen hundred bishops of the Empire
has been estimated by Gibbon at three thousand dollars a year, when
money was much more valuable than it is in our times.

In addition to his munificent patronage of the clergy, Constantine was
himself deeply interested in all theological affairs and discussions. He
convened and presided over the celebrated Council of Nicaea, or Nice, as
it is usually called, composed of three hundred and eighteen bishops,
and of two thousand and forty-eight ecclesiastics of lesser note,
listening to their debates and following their suggestions. The
Christian world never saw a more imposing spectacle than this great
council, which was convened to settle the creed of the Church. It met in
a spacious basilica, where the emperor, arrayed in his purple and silk
robes, with a diadem of precious jewels on his head, and a voice of
gentleness and softness, and an air of supreme majesty, exhorted the
assembled theologians to unity and concord.

The vital question discussed by this magnificent and august assembly
was metaphysical as well as religious; yet it was the question of the
age, on which everybody talked, in public and in private, and which was
deemed of far greater importance than any war or any affair of State.
The interest in this subject seems strange to many, in an age when
positive science and material interests have so largely crowded out
theological discussions. But the doctrine of the Trinity was as vital
and important in the eyes of the divines of the fourth century as that
of Justification by Faith was to the Germans when they assembled in the
great hall of the Electoral palace of Leipsic to hear Luther and Dr. Eck
advocate their separate sides.

In the time of Constantine everything pertaining to Christianity and the
affairs of the Church became invested with supreme importance. All other
subjects and interests were secondary, certainly among the Christians
themselves. As redemption is the central point of Christianity, public
preaching and teaching had been directed chiefly, at first, to the
passion, death, and resurrection of the Saviour of the world. Then came
discussions and controversies, naturally, about the person of Christ and
his relation to the Godhead. Among the early followers of our Lord there
had been no pride of reason and a very simple creed. Least of all did
they seek to explain the mysteries of their faith by metaphysical
reasoning. Their doctrines were not brought to the test of philosophy.
It was enough for these simple and usually unimportant and unlettered
people to accept generally accredited facts. It was enough that Christ
had suffered and died for them, in his boundless love, and that their
souls would be saved in consequence. And as to doctrines, all they
sought to know was what our Lord and his apostles said. Hence there was
among them no system of theology, as we understand it, beyond the
Apostles' Creed. But in the early part of the second century Justin
Martyr, a converted philosopher, devoted much labor to a metaphysical
development of the doctrine drawn from the expressions of the Apostle
John in reference to the Logos, or Word, as identical with the Son.

In the third century the whole Church was agitated by the questions
which grew out of the relations between the Father and the Son. From the
person of Christ--so dear to the Church--the discussion naturally passed
to the Trinity. Then arose the great Alexandrian school of theology,
which attempted to explain and harmonize the revealed truths of the
Bible by Grecian dialectics. Hence interminable disputes among divines
and scholars, as to whether the Father and the Logos were one; whether
the Son was created or uncreated; whether or not he was subordinate to
the Father; whether the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were distinct, or
one in essence. Origen, Clement, and Dionysius were the most famous of
the doctors who discussed these points. All classes of Christians were
soon attracted by them. They formed the favorite subjects of
conversation, as well as of public teaching. Zeal in discussion created
acrimony and partisan animosity. Things were lost sight of, and words
alone prevailed. Sects and parties arose. The sublime efforts of such
men as Justin and Clement to soar to a knowledge of God were perverted
to vain disputations in reference to the relations between the three
persons of the Godhead.

Alexandria was the centre of these theological agitations, being then,
perhaps, the most intellectual city in the Empire. It was filled with
Greek philosophers and scholars and artists, and had the largest library
in the world. It had the most famous school of theology, the learned and
acute professors of which claimed to make theology a science. Philosophy
became wedded to theology, and brought the aid of reason to explain the
subjects of faith.

Among the noted theologians of this Christian capital was a presbyter
who preached in the principal church. His name was Arius, and he was the
most popular preacher of the city. He was a tall, spare man, handsome,
eloquent, with a musical voice and earnest manner. He was the idol of
fashionable women and cultivated men. He was also a poet, like Abélard,
and popularized his speculations on the Trinity. He was as reproachless
in morals as Dr. Channing or Theodore Parker; ascetic in habits and
dress; bold, acute, and plausible; but he shocked the orthodox party by
such sayings as these: "God was not always Father; once he was not
Father; afterwards he became Father." He affirmed, in substance, that
the Son was created by the Father, and hence was inferior in power and
dignity. He did not deny the Trinity, any more than Abélard did in after
times; but his doctrines, pushed out to their logical sequence, were a
virtual denial of the divinity of Christ. If he were created, he was a
creature, and, of course, not God. A created being cannot be the Supreme
Creator. He may be commissioned as a divine and inspired teacher, but he
cannot be God himself. Now his bishop, Alexander, maintained that the
Son (Logos, or Word) is eternally of the same essence as the Father,
uncreated, and therefore equal with the Father. Seeing the foundation of
the faith, as generally accepted, undermined, he caused Arius to be
deposed by a synod of bishops. But the daring presbyter was not
silenced, and obtained powerful and numerous adherents. Men of
influence--like Eusebius the historian--tried to compromise the
difficulties for the sake of unity; and some looked on the discussion as
a war of words, which did not affect salvation. In time the bitterness
of the dispute became a scandal. It was deemed disgraceful for
Christians to persecute each other for dogmas which could not be settled
except by authority, and in the discussion of which metaphysics so
strongly entered. Alexander thought otherwise. He regarded the
speculations of Arius as heretical, as derogating from the supreme
allegiance which was due to Christ. He thought that the very foundations
of Christianity were being undermined.

No one was more disturbed by these theological controversies than the
Emperor himself. He was a soldier, and not a metaphysician; and, as
Emperor, he was Pontifex Maximus,--head of the Church. He hated these
contentions between good and learned men. He felt that they compromised
the interests of the Church universal, of which he was the protector.
Therefore he despatched Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, in Spain,--in whom he
had great confidence, who was in fact his ecclesiastical adviser,--to
both Alexander and Arius, to bring about a reconciliation. As well
reconcile Luther with Dr. Eck, or Pascal with the Jesuits! The divisions
widened. The party animosities increased. The Church was rent in twain.
Metaphysical divinity destroyed Christian union and charity. So
Constantine summoned the first general council in Church history to
settle the disputed points, and restore harmony and unity. It convened
at Nicaea, or Nice, in Asia Minor, not far from Constantinople.

Arius, as the author of all the troubles, was of course present at the
council. As a presbyter he could speak, but not vote. He was sixty years
of age, and in the height of his power and fame, and he was able
in debate.

But there was one man in the assembly on whom all eyes were soon riveted
as the greatest theologian and logician that had arisen in the Church
since the apostolic age. He was archdeacon to the bishop of Alexandria,
--a lean, attenuated man, small in stature, with fiery eye, haughty air,
and impetuous eloquence. His name was Athanasius,--neither Greek nor
Roman, but a Coptic African. He was bitterly opposed to Arius and his
doctrines. No one could withstand his fervor and his logic. He was like
Bernard at the council of Soissons. He was not a cold, dry,
unimpassioned impersonation of mere intellect, like Thomas Aquinas or
Calvin, but more like St. Augustine,--another African, warm, religious,
profound, with human passions, but lofty soul. He also had that
intellectual pride and dogmatism which afterward marked Bossuet. For two
months he appealed to the assembly, and presented the consequences of
the new heresy. With his slight figure, his commanding intellectual
force, his conservative tendencies, his clearness of statement, his
logical exactness and fascinating persuasiveness, he was to churchmen
what Alexander Hamilton was to statesmen. He gave a constitution to the
Church, and became a theological authority scarcely less than Augustine
in the next generation, or Lainez at the Council of Trent.

And the result of the deliberations of that famous council led by
Athanasius,--although both Hosius and Eusebius of Caesarea had more
prelatic authority and dignity than he,--was the Nicene Creed. Who can
estimate the influence of those formulated doctrines? They have been
accepted for fifteen hundred years as the standard of the orthodox
faith, in both Catholic and Protestant churches,--not universally
accepted, for Arianism still has its advocates, under new names, and
probably will have so long as the received doctrines of Christianity are
subjected to the test of reason. Outward unity was, however, restored to
the Church, both by prelatic and imperial authority, although learned
and intellectual men continued to speculate and to doubt. The human mind
cannot be chained. But it was a great thing to establish a creed which
the Christian world could accept in the rude and ignorant ages which
succeeded the destruction of the old civilization. That creed was the
anchor of religious faith in the Middle Ages. It is still retained in
the liturgies of Christendom.

It is not my province to criticise the Nicene Creed, which is virtually
the old Apostles' Creed, with the addition of the Trinity, as defined by
Athanasius. The subject is too complicated and metaphysical. It is
allied with questions concerning which men have always differed and ever
will differ. Although the Alexandrian divines invoked the aid of reason,
it is a matter which reason cannot settle. It is a matter to be
received, if received at all, as a mystery which is insoluble. It
belongs to the realm of faith and authority. And the realms of faith and
reason are eternally distinct. As metaphysics cannot solve material
phenomena, so reason cannot explain subjects which do not appeal to
consciousness. Bacon was a great benefactor when he separated the world
of physical Nature from the world of Mind; and Pascal was equally a
profound philosopher when he showed that faith could not take cognizance
of science, nor science of faith. The blending of distinct realms has
ever been attended with scepticism. "Canst thou by searching find out
God?" What He has revealed for our acceptance should not be confounded
with truths to be settled by inquiry. It is a legitimate yet underrated
department of Christian inquiry to establish the authenticity and
meaning of texts of Scripture from which deductions are made. If the
premises are wrong, confusion and error are the result. We must be sure
of the premises on which theological dogmas are based. If as much time
and genius and learning had been expended in unravelling the meaning of
Scripture declarations as have been spent in theological deductions and
metaphysical distinctions, we should have had a more universally
accepted faith. Happily, in our day, the aspirations and ambitions of
exact scholarship are more and more directed to the elucidation of the
sacred Scriptures of Christianity. Exegesis and philosophy alike appeal
to the intellect; but the one can be so aided by learning that the truth
can be reached, while the other pushes the inquirer into an unfathomable
sea of difficulties. All moral truths are so bounded and involved with
other moral truths that they seem to qualify the meaning of each other.
Almost any assumed truth in religion, when pushed to its utmost logical
sequence, appears to involve absurdities. The "divine justice" of
theologians ends, by severe logical sequences, in apparent injustice,
and "divine mercy" in the sweeping away of all retribution.

It may not unreasonably be asked, Has not theology attempted too much?
Has it solved the truths for the solution of which it borrowed the aid
of reason, and has it not often made a religion which is based on
deductions and metaphysical distinctions as imperative as a religion
based on simple declarations? Has it not appealed to the head, when it
should have appealed to the heart and conscience; and thus has not
religion often been cold and dry and polemical, when it should have been
warm, fervent, and simple? Such seem to have been some of the effects of
the Trinitarian controversy between Athanasius and Arius, and their
respective followers even to our own times. A belief in the unity of
God, as distinguished from polytheism, has been made no more imperative
than a belief in the supposed relations between the Father and the Son.
The real mission of Christ, to save souls, with all the glorious peace
which salvation procures, has often been lost sight of in the covenant
supposed to have been made between the Father and the Son. Nothing could
exceed the acrimony of the Nicene Fathers in their opposition to those
who could not accept their deductions. And the more subtile the
distinctions the more violent were the disputes; until at last religious
persecution marked the conduct of Christians towards each other,--as
fierce almost as the persecutions they had suffered from the Pagans. And
so furious was the strife between those theological disputants,
estimable in other respects as were their characters, that even the
Emperor Constantine at last lost all patience and banished Athanasius
himself to a Gaulish city, after he had promoted him to the great See of
Alexandria as a reward for his services to the Church at the Council of
Nice. To Constantine the great episcopal theologian was simply
"turbulent," "haughty," "intractable."

With the establishment of the doctrine of the Trinity by the Council of
Nice, the interest in the reign of Constantine ceases, although he lived
twelve years after it. His great work as a Christian emperor was to
unite the Church with the State. He did not elevate the Church above the
State; that was the work of the Mediaeval Popes. But he gave external
dignity to the clergy, of whom he was as great a patron as Charlemagne.
He himself was a sort of imperial Pope, attending to things spiritual as
well as to things temporal. His generosity to the Church made him an
object of universal admiration to prelates and abbots and ecclesiastical
writers. In this munificent patronage he doubtless secularized the
Church, and gave to the clergy privileges they afterwards abused,
especially in the ecclesiastical courts. But when the condition of the
Teutonic races in barbaric times is considered, his policy may have
proved beneficent. Most historians consider that the elevation of the
clergy to an equality with barons promoted order and law, especially in
the absence of central governments. If Constantine made a mistake in
enriching and exalting the clergy, it was endorsed by Charlemagne
and Alfred.

After a prosperous and brilliant reign of thirty-one years, the emperor
died in the year 337, in the suburbs of Nicomedia, which Diocletian had
selected as the capital of the East. In great pomp, and amid expressions
of universal grief, his body was transferred to the city he had built
and called by his name; it was adorned with every symbol of grandeur and
power, deposited on a golden bed, and buried in a consecrated church,
which was made the sepulchre of the Greek emperors until the city was
taken by the Turks. The sacred rite of baptism by which Constantine was
united with the visible Church, strange to say, was not administered
until within a few days before his death.

No emperor has received more praises than Constantine. He was fortunate
in his biographers, who saw nothing to condemn in a prince who made
Christianity the established religion of the Empire. If not the
greatest, he was one of the greatest, of all the absolute monarchs who
controlled the destinies of over one hundred millions of subjects. If
not the best of the emperors, he was one of the best, as sovereigns are
judged. I do not see in his character any extraordinary magnanimity or
elevation of sentiment, or gentleness, or warmth of affection. He had
great faults and great virtues, as strong men are apt to have. If he was
addicted to the pleasures of the table, he was chaste and continent in
his marital relations. He had no mistresses, like Julius Caesar and
Louis XIV. He had a great reverence for the ordinances of the Christian
religion. His life, in the main, was as decorous as it was useful. He
was a very successful man, but he was also a very ambitious man; and an
ambitious man is apt to be unscrupulous and cruel. Though he had to deal
with bigots, he was not himself fanatical. He was tolerant and
enlightened. His most striking characteristic was policy. He was one of
the most politic sovereigns that ever lived,--like Henry IV. of France,
forecasting the future, as well as balancing the present. He could not
have decreed such a massacre as that of Thessalonica, or have revoked
such an edict as that of Nantes. Nor could he have stooped to such a
penance as Ambrose inflicted on Theodosius, or given his conscience to a
Father Le Tellier. He tried to do right, not because it was right, like
Marcus Aurelius, but because it was wise and expedient; he was a
Christian, because he saw that Christianity was a better religion than
Paganism, not because he craved a lofty religious life; he was a
theologian, after the pattern of Queen Elizabeth, because theological
inquiries and disputations were the fashion of the day; but when
theologians became rampant and arrogant he put them down, and dictated
what they should believe. He was comparatively indifferent to slaughter,
else he would not have spent seventeen years of his life in civil war,
in order to be himself supreme. He cared little for the traditions of
the Empire, else he would not have transferred his capital to the banks
of the Bosporus. He was more like Peter the Great than like Napoleon
I.; yet he was a better man than either, and bestowed more benefits on
the world than both together, and is to be classed among the greatest
benefactors that ever sat upon the throne.


The original authorities of the life of Constantine are Eusebius, Bishop
of Caesarea, his friend and admirer; also Hosius, of Cordova. The
ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Theodoret, Zosimus, and Sozomen
are dry, but the best we have of that age. The lives of Athanasius and
Arius should be read in connection. Gibbon is very full and exhaustive
on this period. So is Tillemont, who was an authority to Gibbon. Milman
has written, in his interesting history of the Church, a fine notice of
Constantine, and so has Stanley. The German Church histories, especially
that of Neander, should be read; also, Cardinal Newman's History of the
Arians. I need not remind the reader of the innumerable tracts and
treatises on the doctrine of the Trinity. They comprise half the
literature of the Middle Ages as well as of the Fathers. In a lecture I
can only glance at some of the vital points.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 347-404.


The subject of this lecture is Paula, an illustrious Roman lady of rank
and wealth, whose remarkable friendship for Saint Jerome, in the latter
part of the fourth century, has made her historical. If to her we do not
date the first great change in the social relations of man with woman,
yet she is the most memorable example that I can find of that exalted
sentiment which Christianity called out in the intercourse of the sexes,
and which has done more for the elevation of society than any other
sentiment except that of religion itself.

Female friendship, however, must ever have adorned and cheered the
world; it naturally springs from the depths of a woman's soul. However
dark and dismal society may have been under the withering influences of
Paganism, it is probable that glorious instances could be chronicled of
the devotion of woman to man and of man to woman, which was not
intensified by the passion of love. Nevertheless, the condition of
women in the Pagan world, even with all the influences of civilization,
was unfavorable to that sentiment which is such a charm in social life.

The Pagan woman belonged to her husband or her father rather than to
herself. As more fully shown in the discussion of Cleopatra, she was
universally regarded as inferior to man, and made to be his slave. She
was miserably educated; she was secluded from intercourse with
strangers; she was shut up in her home; she was given in marriage
without her consent; she was guarded by female slaves; she was valued
chiefly as a domestic servant, or as an animal to prevent the extinction
of families; she was seldom honored; she was doomed to household
drudgeries as if she were capable of nothing higher; in short, her lot
was hard, because it was unequal, humiliating, and sometimes degrading,
making her to be either timorous, frivolous, or artful. Her amusements
were trivial, her taste vitiated, her education neglected, her rights
violated, her aspirations scorned. The poets represented her as
capricious, fickle, and false. She rose only to fall; she lived only to
die. She was a victim, a toy, or a slave. Bedizened or burdened, she was
either an object of degrading admiration or of cold neglect.

The Jewish women seem to have been more favored and honored than women
were in Greece or Rome, even in the highest periods of their
civilization. But in Jewish history woman was the coy maiden, or the
vigilant housekeeper, or the ambitious mother, or the intriguing wife,
or the obedient daughter, or the patriotic song-stress, rather than the
sympathetic friend. Though we admire the beautiful Rachel, or the heroic
Deborah, or the virtuous Abigail, or the affectionate Ruth, or the
fortunate Esther, or the brave Judith, or the generous Shunamite, we do
not find in the Rachels and Esthers the hallowed ministrations of the
Marys, the Marthas and the Phoebes, until Christianity had developed the
virtues of the heart and kindled the loftier sentiments of the soul.
Then woman became not merely the gentle nurse and the prudent housewife
and the disinterested lover, but a _friend_, an angel of consolation,
the equal of man in character, and his superior in the virtues of the
heart and soul. It was not till then that she was seen to have those
qualities which extort veneration, and call out the deepest sympathy,
whenever life is divested of its demoralizing egotisms. The original
beatitudes of the Garden of Eden returned, and man awoke from the deep
sleep of four thousand years, to discover, with Adam, that woman was a
partner for whom he should resign all the other attachments of life; and
she became his star of worship and his guardian angel amid the
entanglements of sin and cares of toil.

I would not assert that there were not noble exceptions to the
frivolities and slaveries to which women were generally doomed in Pagan
Greece and Rome. Paganism records the fascinations of famous women who
could allure the greatest statesmen and the wisest moralists to their
charmed circle of admirers,--of women who united high intellectual
culture with physical beauty. It tells us of Artemisia, who erected to
her husband a mausoleum which was one of the wonders of the world; of
Telesilla, the poetess, who saved Argos by her courage; of Hipparchia,
who married a deformed and ugly cynic, in order that she might make
attainments in learning and philosophy; of Phantasia, who wrote a poem
on the Trojan war, which Homer himself did not disdain to utilize; of
Sappho, who invented a new measure in lyric poetry, and who was so
highly esteemed that her countrymen stamped their money with her image;
of Volumnia, screening Rome from the vengeance of her angry son; of
Servilia, parting with her jewels to secure her father's liberty; of
Sulpicia, who fled from the luxuries of Rome to be a partner of the
exile of her husband; of Hortensia, pleading for justice before the
triumvirs in the market-place; of Octavia, protecting the children of
her rival Cleopatra; of Lucretia, destroying herself rather than survive
the dishonor of her house; of Cornelia, inciting her sons, the Gracchi,
to deeds of patriotism; and many other illustrious women. We read of
courage, fortitude, patriotism, conjugal and parental love; but how
seldom do we read of those who were capable of an exalted friendship for
men, without provoking scandal or exciting rude suspicion? Who among the
poets paint friendship without love; who among them extol women, unless
they couple with their praises of mental and moral qualities a mention
of the delights of sensual charms and of the joys of wine and banquets?
Poets represent the sentiments of an age or people; and the poets of
Greece and Rome have almost libelled humanity itself by their bitter
sarcasms, showing how degraded the condition of woman was under Pagan

Now, I select Paula, to show that friendship--the noblest sentiment in
woman--was not common until Christianity had greatly modified the
opinions and habits of society; and to illustrate how indissolubly
connected this noble sentiment is with the highest triumphs of an
emancipating religion. Paula was a highly favored as well as a highly
gifted woman. She was a descendant of the Scipios and the Gracchi, and
was born A.D. 347, at Rome, ten years after the death of the Great
Constantine who enthroned Christianity, but while yet the social forces
of the empire were entangled in the meshes of Paganism. She was married
at seventeen to Toxotius, of the still more illustrious Julian family.
She lived on Mount Aventine, in great magnificence. She owned, it is
said, a whole city in Italy. She was one of the richest women of
antiquity, and belonged to the very highest rank of society in an
aristocratic age. Until her husband died, she was not distinguished from
other Roman ladies of rank, except for the splendor of her palace and
the elegance of her life. It seems that she was first won to
Christianity by the virtues of the celebrated Marcella, and she hastened
to enroll herself, with her five daughters, as pupils of this learned
woman, at the same time giving up those habits of luxury which thus far
had characterized her, together with most ladies of her class. On her
conversion, she distributed to the poor the quarter part of her immense
income,--charity being one of the forms which religion took in the early
ages of Christianity. Nor was she contented to part with the splendor of
her ordinary life. She became a nurse of the miserable and the sick; and
when they died she buried them at her own expense. She sought out and
relieved distress wherever it was to be found.

But her piety could not escape the asceticism of the age; she lived on
bread and a little oil, wasted her body with fastings, dressed like a
servant, slept on a mat of straw, covered herself with haircloth, and
denied herself the pleasures to which she had been accustomed; she
would not even take a bath. The Catholic historians have unduly
magnified these virtues; but it was the type which piety then assumed,
arising in part from a too literal interpretation of the injunctions of
Christ. We are more enlightened in these times, since modern Christian
civilization seeks to solve the problem how far the pleasures of this
world may be reconciled with the pleasures of the world to come. But the
Christians of the fourth century were more austere, like the original
Puritans, and made but little account of pleasures which weaned them
from the contemplation of God and divine truth, and chained them to the
triumphal car of a material and infidel philosophy. As the great and
besetting sin of the Jews before the Captivity was idolatry, which thus
was the principal subject of rebuke from the messengers of
Omnipotence,--the one thing which the Jews were warned to avoid; as
hypocrisy and Pharisaism and a technical and legal piety were the
greatest vices to be avoided when Christ began his teachings,--so
Epicureanism in life and philosophy was the greatest evil with which the
early Christians had to contend, and which the more eminent among them
sought to shun, like Athanasius, Basil, and Chrysostom. The asceticism
of the early Church was simply the protest against that materialism
which was undermining society and preparing the way to ruin; and hence
the loftiest type of piety assumed the form of deadly antagonism to the
luxuries and self-indulgence which pervaded every city of the empire.

This antagonism may have been carried too far, even as the Puritan made
war on many innocent pleasures; but the spectacle of a self-indulgent
and pleasure-seeking Christian was abhorrent to the piety of those
saints who controlled the opinions of the Christian world. The world was
full of misery and poverty, and it was these evils they sought to
relieve. The leaders of Pagan society were abandoned to gains and
pleasures, which the Christians would fain rebuke by a lofty
self-denial,--even as Stoicism, the noblest remonstrance of the Pagan
intellect, had its greatest example in an illustrious Roman emperor, who
vainly sought to stem the vices which he saw were preparing the way for
the conquests of the barbarians. The historian who does not take
cognizance of the great necessities of nations, and of the remedies with
which good men seek to meet these necessities, is neither philosophical
nor just; and instead of railing at the saints,--so justly venerated and
powerful,--because they were austere and ascetic, he should remember
that only an indifference to the pleasures and luxuries which were the
fatal evils of their day could make a powerful impression even on the
masses, and make Christianity stand out in bold contrast with the
fashionable, perverse, and false doctrines which Paganism indorsed. And
I venture to predict, that if the increasing and unblushing materialism
of our times shall at last call for such scathing rebukes as the Jewish
prophets launched against the sin of idolatry, or such as Christ himself
employed when he exposed the hollowness of the piety of the men who took
the lead in religious instruction in his day, then the loftiest
characters--those whose example is most revered--will again disdain and
shun a style of life which seriously conflicts with the triumphs of a
spiritual Christianity.

Paula was an ascetic Roman matron on her conversion, or else her
conversion would then have seemed nominal. But her nature was not
austere. She was a woman of great humanity, and distinguished for those
generous traits which have endeared Augustine to the heart of the world.
Her hospitalities were boundless; her palace was the resort of all who
were famous, when they visited the great capital of the empire. Nor did
her asceticism extinguish the natural affections of her heart. When one
of her daughters died, her grief was as immoderate as that of Bernard on
the loss of his brother. The woman was never lost in the saint. Another
interesting circumstance was her enjoyment of cultivated society, and
even of those literary treasures which imperishable art had bequeathed.
She spoke the Greek language as an English or Russian nobleman speaks
French, as a theological student understands German. Her companions were
gifted and learned women. Intimately associated with her in Christian
labors was Marcella,--a lady who refused the hand of the reigning
Consul, and yet, in spite of her duties as a leader of Christian
benevolence, so learned that she could explain intricate passages of the
Scriptures; versed equally in Greek and Hebrew; and so revered, that,
when Rome was taken by the Goths, her splendid palace on Mount Aventine
was left unmolested by the barbaric spoliators. Paula was also the
friend and companion of Albina and Marcellina, sisters of the great
Ambrose, whose father was governor of Gaul. Felicita, Principia, and
Feliciana also belonged to her circle,--all of noble birth and great
possessions. Her own daughter, Blessella, was married to a descendant of
Camillus; and even the illustrious Fabiola, whose life is so charmingly
portrayed by Cardinal Wiseman, was also a member of this chosen circle.

It was when Rome was the field of her charities and the scene of her
virtues, when she equally blazed as a queen of society and a saint of
the most self-sacrificing duties, that Paula fell under the influence of
Saint Jerome, at that time secretary of Pope Damasus,--the most austere
and the most learned man of Christian antiquity, the great oracle of the
Latin Church, sharing with Augustine the reverence bestowed by
succeeding ages, whose translation of the Scriptures into Latin has made
him an immortal benefactor. Nor was Jerome a plebeian; he was a man of
rank and fortune,--like the more famous of the Fathers,--but gave away
his possessions to the poor, as did so many others of his day. Nothing
had been spared on his education by his wealthy Illyrian parents. At
eighteen he was sent to Rome to complete his studies. He became deeply
imbued with classic literature, and was more interested in the great
authors of Greece and Rome than in the material glories of the empire.
He lived in their ideas so completely, that in after times his
acquaintance with even the writings of Cicero was a matter of
self-reproach. Disgusted, however, with the pomps and vanities around
him, he sought peace in the consolations of Christianity. His ardent
nature impelled him to embrace the ascetic doctrines which were so
highly esteemed and venerated; he buried himself in the catacombs, and
lived like a monk. Then his inquiring nature compelled him to travel for
knowledge, and he visited whatever was interesting in Italy, Greece, and
Asia Minor, and especially Palestine, finally fixing upon Chalcis, on
the confines of Syria, as his abode. There he gave himself up to
contemplation and study, and to the writing of letters to all parts of
Christendom. These letters and his learned treatises, and especially the
fame of his sanctity, excited so much interest that Pope Damasus
summoned him back to Rome to become his counsellor and secretary. More
austere than Bossuet or Fénelon at the court of Louis XIV., he was as
accomplished, and even more learned than they. They were courtiers; he
was a spiritual dictator, ruling, not like Dunstan, by an appeal to
superstitious fears, but by learning and sanctity. In his coarse
garments he maintained his equality with princes and nobles. To the
great he appeared proud and repulsive. To the poor he was affable,
gentle, and sympathetic; they thought him as humble as the rich thought
him arrogant.

Such a man--so learned and pious, so courtly in his manners, so eloquent
in his teachings, so independent and fearless in his spirit, so
brilliant in conversation, although tinged with bitterness and
sarcasm--became a favorite in those high circles where rank was adorned
by piety and culture. The spiritual director became a friend, and his
friendship was especially valued by Paula and her illustrious circle.
Among those brilliant and religious women he was at home, for by birth
and education he was their equal. At the house of Paula he was like
Whitefield at the Countess of Huntingdon's, or Michael Angelo in the
palace of Vittoria Colonna,--a friend, a teacher, and an oracle.

So, in the midst of a chosen and favored circle did Jerome live, with
the bishops and the doctors who equally sought the exalted privilege of
its courtesies and its kindness. And the friendship, based on sympathy
with Christian labors, became strengthened every day by mutual
appreciation, and by that frank and genial intercourse which can exist
only with cultivated and honest people. Those high-born ladies listened
to his teachings with enthusiasm, entered into all his schemes, and gave
him most generous co-operation; not because his literary successes had
been blazed throughout the world, but because, like them, he concealed
under his coarse garments and his austere habits an ardent, earnest,
eloquent soul, with intense longings after truth, and with noble
aspirations to extend that religion which was the only hope of the
decaying empire. Like them, he had a boundless contempt for empty and
passing pleasures, for all the plaudits of the devotees to fashion; and
he appreciated their trials and temptations, and pointed out, with more
than fraternal tenderness, those insidious enemies that came in the
disguise of angels of light. Only a man of his intuitions could have
understood the disinterested generosity of those noble women, and the
passionless serenity with which they contemplated the demons they had by
grace exorcised; and it was only they, with their more delicate
organization and their innate insight, who could have entered upon his
sorrows, and penetrated the secrets he did not seek to reveal. He gave
to them his choicest hours, explained to them the mysteries, revealed
his own experiences, animated their hopes, removed their
stumbling-blocks, encouraged them in missions of charity, ignored their
mistakes, gloried in their sacrifices, and held out to them the promised
joys of the endless future. In return, they consoled him in
disappointment, shared his resentments, exulted in his triumphs, soothed
him in his toils, administered to his wants, guarded his infirmities,
relieved him from irksome details, and inspired him to exalted labors by
increasing his self-respect. Not with empty flatteries, nor idle
dalliances, nor frivolous arts did they mutually encourage and assist
each other. Sincerity and truthfulness were the first conditions of
their holy intercourse,--"the communion of saints," in which they
believed, the sympathies of earth purified by the aspirations of heaven;
and neither he nor they were ashamed to feel that such a friendship was
more precious than rubies, being sanctioned by apostles and martyrs;
nay, without which a Bethany would have been as dreary as the stalls and
tables of money-changers in the precincts of the Temple.

A mere worldly life could not have produced such a friendship, for it
would have been ostentatious, or prodigal, or vain; allied with
sumptuous banquets, with intellectual tournaments, with selfish aims,
with foolish presents, with emotions which degenerate into passions
_Ennui_, disappointment, burdensome obligation, ultimate disgust, are
the result of what is based on the finite and the worldly, allied with
the gifts which come from a selfish heart, with the urbanities which are
equally showered on the evil and on the good, with the graces which
sometimes conceal the poison of asps. How unsatisfactory and mournful
the friendship between Voltaire and Frederic the Great, with all their
brilliant qualities and mutual flatteries! How unmeaning would have been
a friendship between Chesterfield and Dr. Johnson, even had the latter
stooped to all the arts of sycophancy! The world can only inspire its
votaries with its own idolatries. Whatever is born of vanity will end in
vanity. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that
mirth is heaviness." But when we seek in friends that which can
perpetually refresh and never satiate,--the counsel which maketh wise,
the voice of truth and not the voice of flattery; that which will
instruct and never degrade, the influences which banish envy and
mistrust,--then there is a precious life in it which survives all
change. In the atmosphere of admiration, respect, and sympathy suspicion
dies, and base desires pass away for lack of their accustomed
nourishment; we see defects through the glass of our own charity, with
eyes of love and pity, while all that is beautiful is rendered radiant;
a halo surrounds the mortal form, like the glory which mediaeval
artists aspired to paint in the faces of Madonnas; and adoration
succeeds to sympathy, since the excellences we admire are akin to the
perfections we adore. "The occult elements" and "latent affinities," of
which material pursuits never take cognizance, are "influences as potent
in adding a charm to labor or repose as dew or air, in the natural
world, in giving a tint to flowers or sap to vegetation."

In that charmed circle, in which it would be difficult to say whether
Jerome or Paula presided, the aesthetic mission of woman was seen
fully,--perhaps for the first time,--which is never recognized when love
of admiration, or intellectual hardihood, or frivolous employments, or
usurped prerogatives blunt original sensibilities and sap the elements
of inward life. Sentiment proved its superiority over all the claims of
intellect,--as when Flora Macdonald effected the escape of Charles
Stuart after the fatal battle of Culloden, or when Mary poured the
spikenard on Jesus' head, and wiped his feet with the hairs of her head.
The glory of the mind yielded to the superior radiance of an admiring
soul, and equals stood out in each other's eyes as gifted superiors whom
it was no sin to venerate. Radiant in the innocence of conscious virtue,
capable of appreciating any flights of genius, holding their riches of
no account except to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, these friends
lived only to repair the evils which unbridled sin inflicted on
mankind,--glorious examples of the support which our frail nature needs,
the sun and joy of social life, perpetual benedictions, the sweet rest
of a harassed soul.

Strange it is that such a friendship was found in the most corrupt,
conventional, luxurious city of the empire. It is not in cities that
friendships are supposed to thrive. People in great towns are too
preoccupied, too busy, too distracted to shine in those amenities which
require peace and rest and leisure. Bacon quotes the Latin adage, _Magna
civitas, magna solitudo_. It is in cities where real solitude dwells,
since friends are scattered, "and crowds are not company, and faces are
only as a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where
there is no love."

The history of Jerome and Paula suggests another reflection,--that the
friendship which would have immortalized them, had they not other and
higher claims to the remembrance and gratitude of mankind, rarely exists
except with equals. There must be sympathy in the outward relations of
life, as we are constituted, in order for men and women to understand
each other. Friendship is not philanthropy: it is a refined and subtile
sentiment which binds hearts together in similar labors and experiences.
It must be confessed it is exclusive, esoteric,--a sort of moral
freemasonry. Jerome, and the great bishops, and the illustrious ladies
to whom I allude, all belonged to the same social ranks. They spent
their leisure hours together, read the same books, and kindled at the
same sentiments. In their charmed circle they unbent; indulged,
perchance, in ironical sallies on the follies they alike despised. They
freed their minds, as Cicero did to Atticus; they said things to each
other which they might have hesitated to say in public, or among fools
and dunces. I can conceive that those austere people were sometimes even
merry and jocose. The ignorant would not have understood their learned
allusions; the narrow-minded might have been shocked at the treatment of
their shibboleths; the vulgar would have repelled them by coarseness;
the sensual would have disgusted them by their lower tastes.

There can be no true harmony among friends when their sensibilities are
shocked, or their views are discrepant. How could Jerome or Paula have
discoursed with enthusiasm of the fascinations of Eastern travel to
those who had no desire to see the sacred places; or of the charms of
Grecian literature to those who could talk only in Latin; or of the
corrupting music of the poets to people of perverted taste; or of the
sublimity of the Hebrew prophets to those who despised the Jews; or of
the luxury of charity to those who had no superfluities; or of the
beatitudes of the passive virtues to soldiers; or of the mysteries of
faith to speculating rationalists; or of the greatness of the infinite
to those who lived in passing events? A Jewish prophet must have seemed
a rhapsodist to Athenian critics, and a Grecian philosopher a conceited
cynic to a converted fisherman of Galilee,--even as a boastful Darwinite
would be repulsive to a believer in the active interference of the moral
Governor of the universe. Even Luther might not have admired Michael
Angelo, any more than the great artist did the courtiers of Julius II.;
and John Knox might have denounced Lord Bacon as a Gallio for advocating
moderate measures of reform. The courtly Bossuet would not probably have
sympathized with Baxter, even when both discoursed on the eternal gulf
between reason and faith. Jesus--the wandering, weary Man of
Sorrows--loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus; but Jesus, in the hour of
supreme grief, allowed the most spiritual and intellectual of his
disciples to lean on his bosom. It was the son of a king whom David
cherished with a love surpassing the love of woman. It was to Plato that
Socrates communicated his moral wisdom; it was with cultivated youth
that Augustine surrounded himself in the gardens of Como; Caesar walked
with Antony, and Cassius with Brutus; it was to Madame de Maintenon that
Fénelon poured out the riches of his intellect, and the lofty Saint
Cyran opened to Mère Angelique the sorrows of his soul. We associate
Aspasia with Pericles; Cicero with Atticus; Héloïse with Abélard;
Hildebrand with the Countess Matilda; Michael Angelo with Vittoria
Colonna; Cardinal de Retz with the Duchess de Longueville; Dr. Johnson
with Hannah More.

Those who have no friends delight most in the plaudits of a plebeian
crowd. A philosopher who associates with the vulgar is neither an oracle
nor a guide. A rich man's son who fraternizes with hostlers will not
long grace a party of ladies and gentlemen. A politician who shakes
hands with the rabble will lose as much in influence as he gains in
power. In spite of envy, poets cling to poets and artists to artists.
Genius, like a magnet, draws only congenial natures to itself. Had a
well-bred and titled fool been admitted into the Turk's-Head Club, he
might have been the butt of good-natured irony; but he would have been
endured, since gentlemen must live with gentlemen and scholars with
scholars, and the rivalries which alienate are not so destructive as the
grossness which repels. More genial were the festivities of a feudal
castle than any banquet between Jews and Samaritans. Had not Mrs. Thrale
been a woman of intellect and sensibility, the hospitalities she
extended to Johnson would have been as irksome as the dinners given to
Robert Hall by his plebeian parishioners; and had not Mrs. Unwin been as
refined as she was sympathetic, she would never have soothed the morbid
melancholy of Cowper, while the attentions of a fussy, fidgety,
talkative, busy wife of a London shopkeeper would have driven him
absolutely mad, even if her disposition had been as kind as that of
Dorcas, and her piety as warm as that of Phoebe. Paula was to Jerome
what Arbella Johnson was to John Winthrop, because their tastes, their
habits, their associations, and their studies were the same,--they were
equals in rank, in culture, and perhaps in intellect.

But I would not give the impression that congenial tastes and habits and
associations formed the basis of the holy friendship between Paula and
Jerome. The fountain and life of it was that love which radiated from
the Cross,--an absorbing desire to extend the religion which saves the
world. Without this foundation, their friendship might have been
transient, subject to caprice and circumstances,--like the gay
intercourse between the wits who assembled at the Hôtel de Rambouillet,
or the sentimental affinities which bind together young men at college
or young girls at school, when their vows of undying attachment are so
often forgotten in the hard struggles or empty vanities of subsequent
life. Circumstances and affinities produced those friendships, and
circumstances or time dissolved them,--like the merry meetings of Prince
Hal and Falstaff; like the companionship of curious or _ennuied_
travellers on the heights of Righi or in the galleries of Florence. The
cord which binds together the selfish and the worldly in the quest for
pleasure, in the search for gain, in the toil for honors, at a
bacchanalian feast, in a Presidential canvass, on a journey to
Niagara,--is a rope of sand; a truth which the experienced know, yet
which is so bitter to learn. It is profound philosophy, as well as
religious experience, which confirms this solemn truth. The soul can
repose only on the certitudes of heaven; those who are joined together
by the gospel feel alike the misery of the fall and the glory of the
restoration. The impressive earnestness which overpowers the mind when
eternal and momentous truths are the subjects of discourse binds people
together with a force of sympathy which cannot be produced by the
sublimity of a mountain or the beauty of a picture. And this enables
them to bear each other's burdens, and hide each other's faults, and
soothe each other's resentments; to praise without hypocrisy, rebuke
without malice, rejoice without envy, and assist without ostentation.
This divine sympathy alone can break up selfishness, vanity, and pride.
It produces sincerity, truthfulness, disinterestedness,--without which
any friendship will die. It is not the remembrance of pleasure which
keeps alive a friendship, but the perception of virtues. How can that
live which is based on corruption or a falsehood? Anything sensual in
friendship passes away, and leaves a residuum of self-reproach, or
undermines esteem. That which preserves undying beauty and sacred
harmony and celestial glory is wholly based on the spiritual in man, on
moral excellence, on the joys of an emancipated soul. It is not easy, in
the giddy hours of temptation or folly, to keep this truth in mind, but
it can be demonstrated by the experience of every struggling character.
The soul that seeks the infinite and imperishable can be firmly knit
only to those who live in the realm of adoration,--the adoration of
beauty, or truth, or love; and unless a man or woman _does_ prefer the
infinite to the finite, the permanent to the transient, the true to the
false, the incorruptible to the corruptible there is not even the
capacity of friendship, unless a low view be taken of it to advance our
interests, or enjoy passing pleasures which finally end in bitter
disappointments and deep disgusts.

Moreover, there must be in lofty friendship not only congenial tastes,
and an aspiration after the imperishable and true, but some common end
which both parties strive to secure, and which they love better than
they love themselves. Without this common end, friendship might wear
itself out, or expend itself in things unworthy of an exalted purpose.
Neither brilliant conversation, nor mutual courtesies, nor active
sympathies will make social intercourse a perpetual charm. We tire of
everything, at times, except the felicities of a pure and fervid love.
But even husband and wife might tire without the common guardianship of
children, or kindred zeal in some practical aims which both alike seek
to secure; for they are helpmates as well as companions. Much more is it
necessary for those who are not tied together in connubial bonds to have
some common purpose in education, in philanthropy, in art, in religion.
Such was pre-eminently the case with Paula and Jerome. They were equally
devoted to a cause which was greater than themselves.

And this was the extension of monastic life, which in their day was the
object of boundless veneration,--the darling scheme of the Church,
indorsed by the authority of sainted doctors and martyrs, and
resplendent in the glories of self-sacrifice and religious
contemplation. At that time its subtile contradictions were not
perceived, nor its practical evils developed. It was not a withered and
cunning hag, but a chaste and enthusiastic virgin, rejoicing in poverty
and self-denial, jubilant with songs of adoration, seeking the solution
of mysteries, wrapt in celestial reveries, yet going forth from dreary
cells to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and still more, to give
spiritual consolations to the poor and miserable. It was a great scheme
of philanthropy, as well as a haven of rest. It was always sombre in its
attire, ascetic in its habits, intolerant in its dogmas, secluded in
its life, narrow in its views, and repulsive in its austerities; but its
leaders and dignitaries did not then conceal under their coarse raiments
either ambition, or avarice, or gluttony. They did not live in stately
abbeys, nor ride on mules with gilded bridles, nor entertain people of
rank and fashion, nor hunt heretics with fire and sword, nor dictate to
princes in affairs of state, nor fill the world with spies, nor extort
from wives the secrets of their husbands, nor peddle indulgences for
sin, nor undermine morality by a specious casuistry, nor incite to
massacres, insurrections, and wars. This complicated system of
despotism, this Protean diversified institution of beggars and
tyrants, this strange contradiction of glory in debasement and
debasement in glory (type of the greatness and littleness of man),
was not then matured, but was resplendent with virtues which extort
esteem,--chastity, poverty, and obedience, devotion to the miserable, a
lofty faith which spurned the finite, an unbounded charity amid the
wreck of the dissolving world. As I have before said, it was a protest
which perhaps the age demanded. The vow of poverty was a rebuke to that
venal and grasping spirit which made riches the end of life; the vow of
chastity was the resolution to escape that degrading sensuality which
was one of the greatest evils of the times; and the vow of obedience was
the recognition of authority amid the disintegrations of society. The
monks would show that a cell could be the blessed retreat of learning
and philosophy, and that even in a desert the soul could rise triumphant
above the privations of the body, to the contemplation of immortal

For this exalted life, as it seemed to the saints of the fourth
century,--seclusion from a wicked world, leisure for study and repose,
and a state favorable to Christian perfection,--both Paula and Jerome
panted: he, that he might be more free to translate the Scriptures and
write his commentaries, and to commune with God; she, to minister to his
wants, stimulate his labors, enjoy the beatific visions, and set a proud
example of the happiness to be enjoyed amid barren rocks or scorching
sands. At Rome, Jerome was interrupted, diverted, disgusted. What was a
Vanity Fair, a Babel of jargons, a school for scandals, a mart of lies,
an arena of passions, an atmosphere of poisons, such as that city was,
in spite of wonders of art and trophies of victory and contributions of
genius, to a man who loved the certitudes of heaven, and sought to
escape from the entangling influences which were a hindrance to his
studies and his friendships? And what was Rome to an emancipated woman,
who scorned luxuries and demoralizing pleasure, and who was perpetually
shocked by the degradation of her sex even amid intoxicating social
triumphs, by their devotion to frivolous pleasures, love of dress and
ornament, elaborate hair-dressings, idle gossipings, dangerous
dalliances, inglorious pursuits, silly trifles, emptiness, vanity, and
sin? "But in the country," writes Jerome, "it is true our bread will be
coarse, our drink water, and our vegetables we must raise with our own
hands; but sleep will not snatch us from agreeable discourse, nor
satiety from the pleasures of study. In the summer the shade of the
trees will give us shelter, and in the autumn the falling leaves a place
of repose. The fields will be painted with flowers, and amid the
warbling of birds we will more cheerfully chant our songs of praise."

So, filled with such desires, and possessing such simplicity of
tastes,--an enigma, I grant, to an age like ours, as indeed it may have
been to his,--Jerome bade adieu to the honors and luxuries and
excitements of the great city (without which even a Cicero languished),
and embarked at Ostia, A.D. 385, for those regions consecrated by the
sufferings of Christ. Two years afterwards, Paula, with her daughter,
joined him at Antioch, and with a numerous party of friends made an
extensive tour in the East, previous to a final settlement in Bethlehem.
They were everywhere received with the honors usually bestowed on
princes and conquerors. At Cyprus, Sidon, Ptolemais, Caesarea, and
Jerusalem these distinguished travellers were entertained by Christian
bishops, and crowds pressed forward to receive their benediction. The
Proconsul of Palestine prepared his palace for their reception, and the
rulers of every great city besought the honor of a visit. But they did
not tarry until they reached the Holy Sepulchre, until they had kissed
the stone which covered the remains of the Saviour of the world. Then
they continued their journey, ascending the heights of Hebron, visiting
the house of Mary and Martha, passing through Samaria, sailing on the
lake Tiberias, crossing the brook Cedron, and ascending the Mount of
Transfiguration. Nor did they rest with a visit to the sacred places
hallowed by associations with kings and prophets and patriarchs. They
journeyed into Egypt, and, by the route taken by Joseph and Mary in
their flight, entered the sacred schools of Alexandria, visited the
cells of Nitria, and stood beside the ruins of the temples of
the Pharaohs.

A whole year was thus consumed by this illustrious party,--learning more
than they could in ten years from books, since every monument and relic
was explained to them by the most learned men on earth. Finally they
returned to Bethlehem, the spot which Jerome had selected for his final
resting-place, and there Paula built a convent near to the cell of her
friend, which she caused to be excavated from the solid rock. It was
there that he performed his mighty literary labors, and it was there
that his happiest days were spent. Paula was near, to supply _his_
simple wants, and give, with other pious recluses, all the society he
required. He lived in a cave, it is true, but in a way afterwards
imitated by the penitent heroes of the Fronde in the vale of Chevreuse;
and it was not disagreeable to a man sickened with the world, absorbed
in literary labors, and whose solitude was relieved by visits from
accomplished women and illustrious bishops and scholars. Fabiola, with a
splendid train, came from Rome to listen to his wisdom. Not only did he
translate the Bible and write commentaries, but he resumed his pious and
learned correspondence with devout scholars throughout the Christian
world. Nor was he too busy to find time to superintend the studies of
Paula in Greek and Hebrew, and read to her his most precious
compositions; while she, on her part, controlled a convent, entertained
travellers from all parts of the world, and diffused a boundless
charity,--for it does not seem that she had parted with the means of
benefiting both the poor and the rich.

Nor was this life at Bethlehem without its charms. That beautiful and
fertile town,--as it then seems to have been,--shaded with sycamores and
olives, luxurious with grapes and figs, abounding in wells of the purest
water, enriched with the splendid church that Helena had built, and
consecrated by so many associations, from David to the destruction of
Jerusalem, was no dull retreat, and presented far more attractions than
did the vale of Port Royal, where Saint Cyran and Arnauld discoursed
with the Mère Angelique on the greatness and misery of man; or the sunny
slopes of Cluny, where Peter the Venerable sheltered and consoled the
persecuted Abélard. No man can be dull when his faculties are stimulated
to their utmost stretch, if he does live in a cell; but many a man is
bored and _ennuied_ in a palace, when he abandons himself to luxury and
frivolities. It is not to animals, but to angels, that the higher
life is given.

Nor during those eighteen years which Paula passed in Bethlehem, or the
previous sixteen years at Rome, did ever a scandal rise or a base
suspicion exist in reference to the friendship which has made her
immortal. There was nothing in it of that Platonic sentimentality which
marked the mediaeval courts of love; nor was it like the chivalrous
idolatry of flesh and blood bestowed on queens of beauty at a
tournament or tilt; nor was it poetic adoration kindled by the
contemplation of ideal excellence, such as Dante saw in his lamented and
departed Beatrice; nor was it mere intellectual admiration which bright
and enthusiastic women sometimes feel for those who dazzle their brains,
or who enjoy a great _éclat_; still less was it that impassioned ardor,
that wild infatuation, that tempestuous frenzy, that dire unrest, that
mad conflict between sense and reason, that sad forgetfulness sometimes
of fame and duty, that reckless defiance of the future, that selfish,
exacting, ungovernable, transient impulse which ignores God and law and
punishment, treading happiness and heaven beneath the feet,--such as
doomed the greatest genius of the Middle Ages to agonies more bitter
than scorpions' stings, and shame that made the light of heaven a
burden; to futile expiations and undying ignominies. No, it was none of
these things,--not even the consecrated endearments of a plighted troth,
the sweet rest of trust and hope, in the bliss of which we defy poverty,
neglect, and hardship; it was not even this, the highest bliss of earth,
but a sentiment perhaps more rare and scarcely less exalted,--that which
the apostle recognized in the holy salutation, and which the Gospel
chronicles as the highest grace of those who believed in Jesus, the
blessed balm of Bethany, the courageous vigilance which watched
beside the tomb.

But the time came--as it always must--for the sundering of all earthly
ties; austerities and labors accomplished too soon their work. Even
saints are not exempted from the penalty of violated physical laws.
Pascal died at thirty-seven. Paula lingered to her fifty-seventh year,
worn out with cares and vigils. Her death was as serene as her life was
lofty; repeating, as she passed away, the aspirations of the
prophet-king for his eternal home. Not ecstasies, but a serene
tranquillity, marked her closing hours. Raising her finger to her lip,
she impressed upon it the sign of the cross, and yielded up her spirit
without a groan. And the icy hand of death neither changed the freshness
of her countenance nor robbed it of its celestial loveliness; it seemed
as if she were in a trance, listening to the music of angelic hosts, and
glowing with their boundless love. The Bishop of Jerusalem and the
neighboring clergy stood around her bed, and Jerome closed her eyes. For
three days numerous choirs of virgins alternated in Greek, Latin, and
Syriac their mournful but triumphant chants. Six bishops bore her body
to the grave, followed by the clergy of the surrounding country. Jerome
wrote her epitaph in Latin, but was too much unnerved to preach her
funeral sermon. Inhabitants from all parts of Palestine came to her
funeral: the poor showed the garments which they had received from her
charity; while the whole multitude, by their sighs and tears, evinced
that they had lost a nursing mother. The Church received the sad
intelligence of her death with profound grief, and has ever since
cherished her memory, and erected shrines and monuments to her honor. In
that wonderful painting of Saint Jerome by Domenichino,--perhaps the
greatest ornament of the Vatican, next to that miracle of art, the
"Transfiguration" of Raphael,--the saint is represented in repulsive
aspects as his soul was leaving his body, ministered unto by the
faithful Paula. But Jerome survived his friend for fifteen years, at
Bethlehem, still engrossed with those astonishing labors which made him
one of the greatest benefactors of the Church, yet austere and bitter,
revealing in his sarcastic letters how much he needed the soothing
influences of that sister of mercy whom God had removed to the choir of
angels, and to whom the Middle Ages looked as an intercessor, like Mary
herself, with the Father of all, for the pardon of sin.

But I need not linger on Paula's deeds of fame. We see in her life,
pre-eminently, that noble sentiment which was the first development in
woman's progress from the time that Christianity snatched her from the
pollution of Paganism. She is made capable of friendship for man without
sullying her soul, or giving occasion for reproach. Rare and difficult
as this sentiment is, yet her example has proved both its possibility
and its radiance. It is the choicest flower which a man finds in the
path of his earthly pilgrimage. The coarse-minded interpreter of a
woman's soul may pronounce that rash or dangerous in the intercourse of
life which seeks to cheer and assist her male associates by an endearing
sympathy; but who that has had any great literary or artistic success
cannot trace it, in part, to the appreciation and encouragement of those
cultivated women who were proud to be his friends? Who that has written
poetry that future ages will sing; who that has sculptured a marble that
seems to live; who that has declared the saving truths of an
unfashionable religion,--has not been stimulated to labor and duty by
women with whom he lived in esoteric intimacy, with mutual admiration
and respect?

Whatever the heights to which woman is destined to rise, and however
exalted the spheres she may learn to fill, she must remember that it was
friendship which first distinguished her from Pagan women, and which
will ever constitute one of her most peerless charms. Long and dreary
has been her progress from the obscurity to which even the Middle Ages
doomed her, with all the boasted admiration of chivalry, to her present
free and exalted state. She is now recognized to be the equal of man in
her intellectual gifts, and is sought out everywhere as teacher and as
writer. She may become whatever she pleases,--actress, singer, painter,
novelist, poet, or queen of society, sharing with man the great prizes
bestowed on genius and learning. But her nature cannot be half
developed, her capacities cannot be known, even to herself, until she
has learned to mingle with man in the free interchange of those
sentiments which keep the soul alive, and which stimulate the noblest
powers. Then only does she realize her aesthetic mission. Then only can
she rise in the dignity of a guardian angel, an educator of the heart, a
dispenser of the blessings by which she would atone for the evil
originally brought upon mankind. Now, to administer this antidote to
evil, by which labor is made sweet, and pain assuaged, and courage
fortified, and truth made beautiful, and duty sacred,--this is the true
mission and destiny of woman. She made a great advance from the
pollutions and slaveries of the ancient world when she proved herself,
like Paula, capable of a pure and lofty friendship, without becoming
entangled in the snares and labyrinths of an earthly love; but she will
make a still greater advance when our cynical world shall comprehend
that it is not for the gratification of passing vanity, or foolish
pleasure, or matrimonial ends that she extends her hand of generous
courtesy to man, but that he may be aided by the strength she gives in
weakness, encouraged by the smiles she bestows in sympathy, and
enlightened by the wisdom she has gained by inspiration.


Butler's Lives of the Saints; Epistles of Saint Jerome; Cave's Lives of
the Fathers; Dolci's De Rebus Gestis Hieronymi; Tillemont's
Ecclesiastical History; Gibbon's Decline and Fall; Neander's Church
History. See also Henry and Dupin. One must go to the Catholic
historians, especially the French, to know the details of the lives of
those saints whom the Catholic Church has canonized. Of nothing is
Protestant ecclesiastical history more barren than the heroism,
sufferings, and struggles of those great characters who adorned the
fourth and fifth centuries, as if the early ages of the Church have no
interest except to Catholics.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 347-407.


The first great moral force, after martyrdom, which aroused the
degenerate people of the old Roman world from the torpor and egotism and
sensuality which were preparing the way for violence and ruin, was the
Christian pulpit. Sacred eloquence, then, as impersonated in Chrysostom,
"the golden-mouthed," will be the subject of this Lecture, for it was by
the "foolishness of preaching" that a new spiritual influence went forth
to save a dying world. Chrysostom was not, indeed, the first great
preacher of the new doctrines which were destined to win such mighty
triumphs, but he was the most distinguished of the pulpit orators of the
early Church. Yet even he is buried in his magnificent cause. Who can
estimate the influence of the pulpit for fifteen hundred years in the
various countries of Christendom? Who can grasp the range of its
subjects and the dignity of its appeals? In ages even of ignorance and
superstition it has been eloquent with themes of redemption and of a
glorious immortality.

Eloquence has ever been admired and honored among all nations,
especially among the Greeks. It was the handmaid of music and poetry
when the divinity of mind was adored--perhaps with Pagan instincts, but
still adored--as a birthright of genius, upon which no material estimate
could be placed, since it came from the Gods, like physical beauty, and
could neither be bought nor acquired. Long before Christianity declared
its inspiring themes and brought peace and hope to oppressed millions,
eloquence was a mighty power. But then it was secular and mundane; it
pertained to the political and social aspects of States; it belonged to
the Forum or the Senate; it was employed to save culprits, to kindle
patriotic devotion, or to stimulate the sentiments of freedom and public
virtue. Eloquence certainly did not belong to the priest. It was his
province to propitiate the Deity with sacrifices, to surround himself
with mysteries, to inspire awe by dazzling rites and emblems, to work on
the imagination by symbols, splendid dresses, smoking incense,
slaughtered beasts, grand temples. He was a man to conjure, not to
fascinate; to kindle superstitious fears, not to inspire by thoughts
which burn. The gift of tongues was reserved for rhetoricians,
politicians, lawyers, and Sophists.

Now Christianity at once seized and appropriated the arts of eloquence
as a means of spreading divine truth. Christianity ever has made use of
all the arts and gifts and inventions of men to carry out the concealed
purposes of the Deity. It was not intended that Christianity should
always work by miracles, but also by appeals to the reason and
conscience of mankind, and through the truths which had been
supernaturally declared,--the required means to accomplish an end.
Therefore, she enriched and dignified an art already admired and
honored. She carried away in triumph the brightest ornament of the Pagan
schools and placed it in the hands of her chosen ministers. So that the
Christian pulpit soon began to rival the Forum in an eloquence which may
be called artistic,--a natural power of moving men, allied with learning
and culture and experience. Young men of family and fortune at last,
like Gregory Nazianzen and Basil, prepared themselves in celebrated
schools; for eloquence, though a gift, is impotent without study. See
the labors of the most accomplished of the orators of Pagan antiquity.
It was not enough for an ancient Greek to have natural gifts; he must
train himself by the severest culture, mastering all knowledge, and
learning how he could best adapt himself to those he designed to move.
So when the gospel was left to do its own work on people's hearts, after
supernatural influence is supposed to have been withdrawn, the
Christian preachers, especially in the Grecian cities, found it
expedient to avail themselves of that culture which the Greeks ever
valued, even in degenerate times. Indeed, when has Christianity rejected
learning and refinement? Paul, the most successful of the apostles, was
also the most accomplished,--even as Moses, the most gifted man among
the ancient Jews, was also the most learned. It is a great mistake to
suppose that those venerated Fathers, who swayed by their learning and
eloquence the Christian world, were merely saints. They were the
intellectual giants of their day, living in courts, and associating with
the wise, the mighty, and the noble. And nearly all of them were great
preachers: Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine, Ambrose, and even Leo, if
they yielded to Origen and Jerome in learning, were yet very polished,
cultivated men, accustomed to all the refinements which grace and
dignify society.

But the eloquence of these bishops and orators was rendered potent by
vastly grander themes than those which had been dwelt upon by Pericles,
or Demosthenes, or Cicero, and enlarged by an amazing depth of new
subjects, transcending in dignity all and everything on which the
ancient orators had discoursed or discussed. The bishop, while he
baptized believers, and administered the symbolic bread and wine, also
taught the people, explained to them the mysteries, enforced upon them
their duties, appealed to their intellects and hearts and consciences,
consoled them in their afflictions, stimulated their hopes, aroused
their fears, and kindled their devotions. He plunged fearlessly into
every subject which had a bearing on religious life. While he stood
before them clad in the robes of priestly office, holding in his hands
the consecrated elements which told of their redemption, and offering up
to God before the altar prayers in their behalf, he also ascended the
pulpit to speak of life and death in all their sublime relations. "There
was nothing touching," says Talfourd, "in the instability of fortune, in
the fragility of loveliness, in the mutability of mortal friendship, or
the decay of systems, nor in the fall of States and empires, which he
did not present, to give humiliating ideas of worldly grandeur. Nor was
there anything heroic in sacrifice, or grand in conflict, or sublime in
danger,--nothing in the loftiness of the soul's aspirations, nothing of
the glorious promises of everlasting life,--which he did not dwell upon
to stimulate the transported crowds who hung upon his lips. It was his
duty and his privilege," continues this eloquent and Christian lawyer,
"to dwell on the older history of the world, on the beautiful
simplicities of patriarchal life, on the stern and marvellous story of
the Hebrews, on the glorious visions of the prophets, on the songs of
the inspired melodists, on the countless beauties of the Scriptures, on
the character and teachings and mission of the Saviour. It was his to
trace the Spirit of the boundless and the eternal, faintly breathing in
every part of the mystic circle of superstition,--unquenched even amidst
the most barbarous rites of savage tribes, and in the cold and beautiful
shapes of Grecian mould."

How different this eloquence from that of the expiring nations! Their
eloquence is sad, sounding like the tocsin of departed glories,
protesting earnestly--but without effect--against those corruptions
which it was too late to heal. How touching the eloquence of
Demosthenes, pointing out the dangers of the State, and appealing to
liberty, when liberty had fled. In vain his impassioned appeals to men
insensible to elevated sentiments. He sang the death-song of departed
greatness without the possibility of a new creation. He spoke to
audiences cultivated indeed, but divided, enervated, embittered,
infatuated, incapable of self-sacrifice, among whom liberty was a mere
tradition and patriotism a dream; and he spoke in vain. Nor could
Cicero--still more accomplished, if not so impassioned--kindle among the
degenerate Romans the ancient spirit which had fled when demagogues
began their reign. How mournful was the eloquence of this great patriot,
this experienced statesman, this wise philosopher, who, in spite of all
his weaknesses, was admired and honored by all who spoke the Latin
tongue. But had he spoken with the tongue of an archangel it would have
been all the same, on any worldly or political subject. The old
sentiments had died out. Faith was extinguished amid universal
scepticism and indifference. He had no material to work on. The
birthright of ancient heroes had been sold for a mess of pottage, and
this he knew; and therefore with his last philippics he bowed his
venerable head, and prepared himself for the sword of the executioner,
which he accepted as an inevitable necessity.

These great orators appealed to traditions, to sentiments which had
passed away, to glories which could not possibly return; and they spoke
in vain. All they could do was to utter their manly and noble protests,
and die, with the dispiriting and hopeless feeling that the seeds of
ruin, planted in a soil of corruption, would soon bear their wretched
fruits,--even violence and destruction.

But the orators who preached a new religion of regenerating forces were
more cheerful. They knew that these forces would save the world,
whatever the depth of ignominy, wretchedness, and despair. Their
eloquence was never sad and hopeless, but triumphant, jubilant,
overpowering. It kindled the fires of an intense enthusiasm. It kindled
an enthusiasm not based on the conquest of the earth, but on the
conquests of the soul, on the never-fading glories of immortality, on
the ever-increasing power of the kingdom of Christ. The new orators did
not preach liberty, or the glories of material life, or the majesty of
man, or even patriotism, but Salvation,--the future destinies of the
soul. A new arena of eloquence was entered; a new class of orators
arose, who discoursed on subjects of transcending comfort to the poor
and miserable. They made political slavery of no account in comparison
with the eternal redemption and happiness promised in the future state.
The old institutions could not be saved: perhaps the orators did not
care to save them; they were not worth saving; they were rotten to the
core. But new institutions should arise upon their ruins; creation
should succeed destruction; melodious birth-songs should be heard above
the despairing death-songs. There should be a new heaven and a new
earth, in which should dwell righteousness; and the Prince of Peace--
Prophet, Priest, and King--should reign therein forever and ever.

Of the great preachers who appeared in thousands of pulpits in the
fourth century,--after Christianity was seated on the throne of the
Roman world, and before it had sunk into the eclipse which barbaric
spoliations and papal usurpations, and general ignorance, madness, and
violence produced,--there was one at Antioch (the seat of the old
Greco-Asiatic civilization, alike refined, voluptuous, and intellectual)
who was making a mighty stir and creating a mighty fame. This was
Chrysostom, whose name has been a synonym of eloquence for more than
fifteen hundred years. His father, named Secundus, was a man of high
military rank; his mother, Anthusa, was a woman of rare Christian
graces,--as endeared to the Church as Monica, the sainted mother of
Augustine; or Nonna, the mother of Gregory Nazianzen. And it is a
pleasing fact to record, that most of the great Fathers received the
first impulse to their memorable careers from the influence of pious
mothers; thereby showing the true destiny and glory of women, as the
guardians and instructors of their children, more eager for their
salvation than ambitious of worldly distinction. Buried in the blessed
sanctities and certitudes of home,--if this can be called a
burial,--those Christian women could forego the dangerous fascination of
society and the vanity of being enrolled among its leaders. Anthusa so
fortified the faith of her yet unconverted son by her wise and
affectionate counsels, that she did not fear to intrust him to the
teachings of Libanius, the Pagan rhetorician, deeming an accomplished
education as great an ornament to a Christian gentleman as were the good
principles she had instilled a support in dangerous temptation. Her son
John--for that was his baptismal and only name--was trained in all the
learning of the schools, and, like so many of the illustrious of our
world, made in his youth a wonderful proficiency. He was precocious,
like Cicero, like Abélard, like Pascal, like Pitt, like Macaulay, and
Stuart Mill; and like them he panted for distinction and fame. The most
common path to greatness for high-born youth, then as now, was the
profession of the law. But the practice of this honorable profession did
not, unfortunately, at least in Antioch, correspond with its theory.
Chrysostom (as we will call him, though he did not receive this
appellation until some centuries after his death) was soon disgusted and
disappointed with the ordinary avocations of the Forum,--its low
standard of virtue, and its diversion of what is ennobling in the pure
fountains of natural justice into the turbid and polluted channels of
deceit, chicanery, and fraud; its abandonment to usurious calculations
and tricks of learned and legalized jugglery, by which the end of law
itself was baffled and its advocates alone enriched. But what else could
be expected of lawyers in those days and in that wicked city, or even in
any city of the whole Empire, when justice was practically a marketable
commodity; when one half of the whole population were slaves; when the
circus and the theatre were as necessary as the bath; when only the rich
and fortunate were held in honor; when provincial governments were sold
to the highest bidder; when effeminate favorites were the grand
chamberlains of emperors; when fanatical mobs rendered all order a
mockery; when the greed for money was the master passion of the people;
when utility was the watchword of philosophy, and material gains the end
and object of education; when public misfortunes were treated with the
levity of atheistic science; when private sorrows, miseries, and
sufferings had no retreat and no shelter; when conjugal infelicities
were scarcely a reproach; when divorces were granted on the most
frivolous pretexts; when men became monks from despair of finding women
of virtue for wives; and when everything indicated a rapid approach of
some grand catastrophe which should mingle, in indiscriminate ruin, the
masters and the slaves of a corrupt and prostrate world?

Such was society, and such the signs of the times, when Chrysostom began
the practice of the law at Antioch,--perhaps the wickedest city of the
whole Empire. His eyes speedily were opened. He could not sleep, for
grief and disgust; he could not embark on a profession which then, at
least, added to the evils it professed to cure; he began to tremble for
his higher interests; he abandoned the Forum forever; he fled as from a
city of destruction; he sought solitude, meditation, and prayer, and
joined those monks who lived in cells, beyond the precincts of the
doomed city. The ardent, the enthusiastic, the cultivated, the
conscientious, the lofty Chrysostom fraternized with the visionary
inhabitants of the desert, speculated with them on the mystic
theogonies of the East, discoursed with them on the origin of evil,
studied with them the Christian mysteries, fasted with them, prayed with
them, slept like them on a bed of straw, denied himself his accustomed
luxuries, abandoning himself to alternate transports of grief and
sublime enthusiasm, now contending with the demons who sought his
destruction; then soaring to comprehend the Man-God,--the Word made
flesh, the incarnation of the divine Logos,--and the still more subtile
questions pertaining to the nature and distinctions of the Trinity.

Such were the forms and modes of his conversion,--somewhat different
from the experience of Augustine or of Luther, yet not less real and
permanent. Those days were the happiest of his life. He had leisure and
he had enthusiasm. He desired neither riches nor honors, but the peace
of a forgiven soul He was a monk without losing his humanity; a
philosopher without losing his taste for the Bible; a Christian without
repudiating the learning of the schools. But the influence of early
education, his practical yet speculative intellect, his inextinguishable
sympathies, his desire for usefulness, and possibly an unsubdued
ambition to exert a greater influence would not allow him wholly to bury
himself. He made long visits to the friends and habitations he had left,
in order to stimulate their faith, relieve their necessities, and
encourage them in works of benevolence; leading a life of alternate
study and active philanthropy,--learning from the accomplished Diodorus
the historical mode of interpreting the Scriptures, and from the
profound Theodorus the systems of ancient philosophy. Thus did he train
himself for his future labors, and lay the foundation for his future
greatness. It was thus he accumulated those intellectual treasures which
he afterwards lavished at the imperial court.

But his health at last gave way; and who can wonder? Who can long thrive
amid exhausting studies on root dinners and ascetic severities? He was
obliged to leave his cave, where he had dwelt six blessed years; and the
bishop of Antioch, who knew his merits, pressed him into the active
service of the Church, and ordained him deacon,--for the hierarchy of
the Church was then established, whatever may have been the original
distinctions of the clergy. With these we have nothing to do. But it
does not appear that he preached as yet to the people, but performed
like other deacons the humble office of reader, leaving to priests and
bishops the higher duties of a public teacher. It was impossible,
however, for a man of his piety and his gifts, his melodious voice, his
extensive learning, and his impressive manners long to remain in a
subordinate post. He was accordingly ordained a presbyter, A.D. 381, by
Bishop Flavian, in the spacious basilica of Antioch, and the active
labors of his life began at the age of thirty-four.

Many were the priests associated with him in that great central
metropolitan church; "but upon him was laid the duty of especially
preaching to the people,--the most important function recognized by the
early Church. He generally preached twice in the week, on Saturday and
Sunday mornings, often at break of day, in consequence of the heat of
the sun. And such was his popularity and unrivalled power, that the
bishop, it is said, often allowed him to finish what he had himself
begun. His listeners would crowd around his pulpit, and even interrupt
his teachings by their applause. They were unwearied, though they stood
generally beyond an hour. His elocution, his gestures, and his matter
were alike enchanting." Like Bernard, his very voice would melt to
tears. It was music singing divine philosophy; it was harmony clothing
the richest moral wisdom with the most glowing style. Never, since the
palmy days of Greece, had her astonishing language been wielded by such
a master. He was an artist, if sacred eloquence does not disdain that
word. The people were electrified by the invectives of an Athenian
orator, and moved by the exhortations of a Christian apostle. In majesty
and solemnity the ascetic preacher was a Jewish prophet delivering to
kings the unwelcome messages of divine Omnipotence. In grace of manner
and elegance of language he was the persuasive advocate of the ancient
Forum; in earnestness and unction he has been rivalled only by
Savonarola; in dignity and learning he may remind us of Bossuet; in his
simplicity and orthodoxy he was the worthy successor of him who preached
at the day of Pentecost. He realized the perfection which sacred
eloquence attained, but to which Pagan art has vainly aspired,--a charm
and a wonder to both learned and unlearned,--the precursor of the
Bourdaloues and Lacordaires of the Roman Catholic Church, but especially
the model for "all preachers who set above all worldly wisdom those
divine revelations which alone can save the world."

Everything combined to make Chrysostom the pride and the glory of the
ancient Church,--the doctrines which he did not hesitate to proclaim to
unwilling ears, and the matchless manner in which he enforced
them,--perhaps the most remarkable preacher, on the whole, that ever
swayed an audience; uniting all things,--voice, language, figure,
passion, learning, taste, art, piety, occasion, motive, prestige, and
material to work upon. He left to posterity more than a thousand
sermons, and the printed edition of all his works numbers twelve folio
volumes. Much as we are inclined to underrate the genius and learning of
other days in this our age of more advanced utilities, of progressive
and ever-developing civilization,--when Sabbath-school children know
more than sages knew two thousand years ago, and socialistic
philanthropists and scientific _savans_ could put to blush Moses and
Solomon and David, to say nothing of Paul and Peter, and other reputed
oracles of the ancient world, inasmuch as they were so weak and
credulous as to believe in miracles, and a special Providence, and a
personal God,--yet we find in the sermons of Chrysostom, preached even
to voluptuous Syrians, no commonplace exhortations, such as we sometimes
hear addressed to the thinkers of this generation, when poverty of
thought is hidden in pretty expressions, and the waters of life are
measured out in tiny gill cups, and even then diluted by weak platitudes
to suit the taste of the languid and bedizened and frivolous slaves of
society, whose only intellectual struggle is to reconcile the pleasures
of material and sensual life with the joys and glories of the world to
come. He dwelt, boldly and earnestly, and with masculine power, on the
majesty of God and the comparative littleness of man, on moral
accountability to Him, on human degeneracy, on the mysterious power of
evil, by force of which good people in this dispensation are in a small
minority, on the certainty of future retribution; yet also on the
never-fading glories of immortality which Christ has brought to light by
his sufferings and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension, and
the promised influences of the Holy Spirit. These truths, so solemn and
so grand, he preached, not with tricks of rhetoric, but simply and
urgently, as an ambassador of Heaven to lost and guilty man. And can you
wonder at the effect? When preachers throw themselves on the cardinal
truths of Christianity, and preach with earnestness as if they believed
them, they carry the people with them, producing a lasting impression,
and growing broader and more dignified every day. When they seek
novelties, and appeal purely to the intellect, or attempt to be
philosophical or learned, they fail, whatever their talents. It is the
divine truth which saves, not genius and learning,--especially the
masses, and even the learned and rich, when their eyes are opened to the
delusions of life.

For twelve years Chrysostom preached at Antioch, the oracle and the
friend of all classes whether high or low, rich or poor, so that he
became a great moral force, and his fame extended to all parts of the
Empire. Senators and generals and governors came to hear his eloquence.
And when, to his vast gifts, he added the graces and virtues of the
humblest of his flock,--parting with a splendid patrimony to feed the
hungry and clothe the naked, utterly despising riches except as a means
of usefulness, living most abstemiously, shunning the society of
idolaters, indefatigable in labor, accessible to those who needed
spiritual consolation, healing dissensions, calming mobs, befriending
the persecuted, rebuking sin in high places; a man acquainted with grief
in the midst of intoxicating intellectual triumphs,--reverence and love
were added to admiration, and no limits could be fixed to the moral
influence he exerted.

There are few incidents in his troubled age more impressive than when
this great preacher sheltered Antioch from the vengeance of Theodosius.
That thoughtless and turbulent city had been disgraced by an outrageous
insult to the emperor. A mob, a very common thing in that age, had
rebelled against the majesty of the law, and murdered the officers of
the Government. The anger of Theodosius knew no bounds, but was
fortunately averted by the entreaties of the bishop, and the emperor
abstained from inflicting on the guilty city the punishment he
afterwards sent upon Thessalonica for a less crime. Moreover the
repentance of the people was open and profound. Chrysostom had moved and
melted them. It was the season of Lent. Every day the vast church was
crowded. The shops were closed; the Forum was deserted; the theatre was
shut; the entire day was consumed with public prayers; all pleasures
were forsaken; fear and anguish sat on every countenance, as in a
Mediaeval city after an excommunication. Chrysostom improved the
occasion; and perhaps the most remarkable Lenten sermons ever preached,
subdued the fierce spirits of the city, and Antioch was saved. It was
certainly a sublime spectacle to see a simple priest, unclothed even
with episcopal functions, surrounded for weeks by the entire population
of a great city, ready to obey his word, and looking to him alone as
their deliverer from temporal calamities, as well as their guide in
fleeing from the wrath to come.

And here we have a noted example of the power as well as the dignity of
the pulpit,--a power which never passed away even in ages of
superstition, never disdained by abbots or prelates or popes in the
plenitude of their secular magnificence (as we know from the sermons of
Gregory and Bernard); a sacred force even in the hands of monks, as when
Savonarola ruled the city of Florence, and Bourdaloue awed the court of
France; but a still greater force among the Reformers, like Luther and
Knox and Latimer, yea in all the crises and changes of both the Catholic
and Protestant churches; and not to be disdained even in our utilitarian
times, when from more than two hundred thousand pulpits in various
countries of Christendom, every Sunday, there go forth voices, weak or
strong, from gifted or from shallow men, urging upon the people their
duties, and presenting to them the hopes of the life to come. Oh, what a
power is this! How few realize its greatness, as a whole! What a power
it is, even in its weaker forms, when the clergy abdicate their
prerogatives and turn themselves into lecturers, or bury themselves in
liturgies! But when they preach without egotism or vanity, scorning
sensationalism and vulgarity and cant, and falling back on the great
truths which save the world, then sacredness is added to dignity. And
especially when the preacher is fearless and earnest, declaring most
momentous truths, and to people who respond in their hearts to those
truths, who are filled with the same enthusiasm as he is himself, and
who catch eagerly his words of life, and follow his directions as if he
were indeed a messenger of Jehovah,--then I know of no moral power which
can be compared with the pulpit. Worldly men talk of the power of the
press, and it is indeed an influence not to be disdained,--it is a great
leaven; but the teachings of its writers, when not superficial, are
contradictory, and are often mere echoes of public sentiment in
reference to mere passing movements and fashions and politics and
spoils. But the declarations of the clergy, for the most part, are all
in unison, in all the various churches--Catholic and Protestant,
Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist--which accept God
Almighty as the moral governor of the universe, the great master of our
destinies, whose eternal voice speaketh to the conscience of mankind.
And hence their teachings, if they are true to their calling, have
reference to interests and duties and aspirations and hopes as far
removed in importance from mere temporal matters as the heaven is
higher than the earth. Oh, what high treason to the deity whom the
preacher invokes, what stupidity, what frivolity, what insincerity, what
incapacity of realizing what is truly great, when he descends from the
lofty themes of salvation and moral accountability, to dwell on the
platitudes of aesthetic culture, the beauties and glories of Nature, or
the wonders of a material civilization, and then with not half the force
of those books and periodicals which are scattered in every hamlet of
civilized Europe and America!

Now it was to the glory of Chrysostom that he felt the dignity of his
calling and aspired to nothing higher, satisfied with his great
vocation,--a vocation which can never be measured by the lustre of a
church or the wealth of a congregation. Gregory Nazianzen, whether
preaching in his paternal village or in the cathedral of Constantinople,
was equally the creator of those opinion-makers who settle the verdicts
of men. Augustine, in a little African town, wielded ten times the
influence of a bishop of Rome, and his sermons to the people of the town
of Hippo furnished a thesaurus of divinity to the clergy for a
thousand years.

Nevertheless, Antioch was not great enough to hold such a preacher as
Chrysostom. He was summoned by imperial authority to the capital of the
Eastern Empire. One of the ministers of Arcadius, the son of the great
Theodosius, had heard him preach, and greatly admired his eloquence, and
perhaps craved the excitement of his discourses,--as the people of Rome
hankered after the eloquence of Cicero when he was sent into exile.
Chrysostom reluctantly resigned his post in a provincial city to become
the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was a great change in his outward
dignity. His situation as the highest prelate of the East was rarely
conferred except on the favorites of emperors, as the episcopal sees of
Mediaeval Europe were rarely given to men but of noble birth. Yet being
forced, as it were, to accept what he did not seek or perhaps desire, he
resolved to be true to himself and his master. Scarcely was he
consecrated by Theophilus of Alexandria before he launched out his
indignant invectives against the patron who had elevated him, the court
which admired him, and the imperial family which sustained him. Still
the preacher, when raised to the government of the Eastern church,
regarding his sphere in the pulpit as the loftiest which mortal genius
could fill. He feared no one, and he spared no one. None could rob a man
who had parted with a princely fortune for the sake of Christ; none
could bribe a man who had no favors to ask, and who could live on a
crust of bread; none could silence a man who felt himself to be the
minister of divine Omnipotence, and who scattered before his altar the
dust of worldly grandeur.

It seems that Chrysostom regarded his first duty, even as the
Metropolitan of the East, to preach the gospel. He subordinated the
bishop to the preacher. True, he was the almoner of his church and the
director of its revenues; but he felt that the church of Christ had a
higher vocation for a bishop to fill than to be a good business man.
Amid all the distractions of his great office he preached as often and
as fervently as he did at Antioch. Though possessed of enormous
revenues, he curtailed the expenses of his household, and surrounded
himself with the pious and the learned. He lived retired within his
palace; he dined alone on simple food, and always at home. The great
were displeased that he would not honor with his presence their
sumptuous banquets; but rich dinners did not agree with his weak
digestion, and perhaps he valued too highly his precious time to waste
himself, body and soul, for the enjoyment of even admiring courtiers.
His power was not at the dinner-table but in the pulpit, and he feared
to weaken the effects of his discourses by the exhibition of weaknesses
which nearly every man displays amid the excitements of social

Perhaps, however, Chrysostom was too ascetic. Christ dined with
publicans and sinners; and a man must unbend somewhere, or he loses the
elasticity of his mind, and becomes a formula or a mechanism. The
convivial enjoyments of Luther enabled him to bear his burden. Had
Thomas à Becket shown the same humanity as archbishop that he did as
chancellor, he might not have quarrelled with his royal master. So
Chrysostom might have retained his favor with the court and his see
until he died, had he been less austere and censorious. Yet we should
remember that the asceticism which is so repulsive to us, and with
reason, and which marked the illustrious saints of the fourth century,
was simply the protest against the almost universal materialism of the
day,--that dreadful moral blight which was undermining society. As
luxury and extravagance and material pleasures were the prominent evils
of the old Roman world in its decline, it was natural that the protest
against these evils should assume the greatest outward antagonism.
Luxury and a worldly life were deemed utterly inconsistent with a
preacher of righteousness, and were disdained with haughty scorn by the
prophets of the Lord, as they were by Elijah and Elisha in the days of
Ahab. "What went ye out in the wilderness to see?" said our Lord, with
disdainful irony,--"a man clothed in soft raiment? They that wear soft
clothing are in king's houses,"--as much as to say, My prophets, my
ministers, rejoice not in such things.

So Chrysostom could never forget that he was a minister of Christ, and
was willing to forego the trappings and pleasures of material life
sooner than abdicate his position as a spiritual dictator. The secular
historians of our day would call him arrogant, like the courtiers of
Arcadius, who detested his plain speaking and his austere piety; but the
poor and unimportant thought him as humble as the rich and great thought
him proud. Moreover, he was a foe to idleness, and sent away from court
to their distant sees a host of bishops who wished to bask in the
sunshine of court favor, or revel in the excitements of a great city;
and they became his enemies. He deposed others for simony, and they
became still more hostile. Others again complained that he was
inhospitable, since he would not give up his time to everybody, even
while he scattered his revenues to the poor. And still others
entertained towards him the passion of envy,--that which gives rancor to
the _odium theologicum_, that fatal passion which caused Daniel to be
cast into the lions' den, and Haman to plot the ruin of Mordecai; a
passion which turns beautiful women into serpents, and learned
theologians into fiends. So that even Chrysostom was assailed with
danger. Even he was not too high to fall.

The first to turn against the archbishop was the Lord High
Chamberlain,--Eutropius,--the minister who had brought him to
Constantinople. This vulgar-minded man expected to find in the preacher
he had elevated a flatterer and a tool. He was as much deceived as was
Henry II. when he made Thomas à Becket archbishop of Canterbury. The
rigid and fearless metropolitan, instead of telling stories at his
table and winking at his infamies, openly rebuked his extortions and
exposed his robberies. The disappointed minister of Arcadius then bent
his energies to compass the ruin of the prelate; but, before he could
effect his purpose, he was himself disgraced at court. The army in
revolt had demanded his head, and Eutropius fled to the metropolitan
church of Saint Sophia. Chrysostom seized the occasion to impress his
hearers with the instability of human greatness, and preached a sort of
funeral oration for the man before he was dead. As the fallen and
wretched minister of the emperor lay crouching in an agony of shame and
fear beneath the table of the altar, the preacher burst out: "Oh, vanity
of vanities, where is now the glory of this man? Where the splendor of
the light which surrounded him; where the jubilee of the multitude which
applauded him; where the friends who worshipped his power; where the
incense offered to his image? All gone! It was a dream: it has fled like
a shadow; it has burst like a bubble! Oh, vanity of vanity of vanities!
Write it on all walls and garments and streets and houses: write it on
your consciences. Let every one cry aloud to his neighbor, Behold, all
is vanity! And thou, O wretched man," turning to the fallen chamberlain,
"did I not say unto thee that money is a thankless servant? Said I not
that wealth is a most treacherous friend? The theatre, on which thou
hast bestowed honor, has betrayed thee; the race-course, after
devouring thy gains, has sharpened the sword of those whom thou hast
labored to amuse. But our sanctuary, which thou hast so often assailed,
now opens her bosom to receive thee, and covers thee with her wings."

But even the sacred cathedral did not protect him. He was dragged out
and slain.

A more relentless foe now appeared against the prelate,--no less a
personage than Theophilus, the very bishop who had consecrated him.
Jealousy was the cause, and heresy the pretext,--that most convenient
cry of theologians, often indeed just, as when Bernard accused Abélard,
and Calvin complained of Servetus; but oftener, the most effectual way
of bringing ruin on a hated man, as when the partisans of Alexander VI.
brought Savonarola to the tribunal of the Inquisition. It seems that
Theophilus had driven out of Egypt a body of monks because they would
not assent to the condemnation of Origen's writings; and the poor men,
not knowing where to go, fled to Constantinople and implored the
protection of the Patriarch. He compassionately gave them shelter, and
permission to say their prayers in one of his churches. Therefore he was
a heretic, like them,--a follower of Origen.

Under common circumstances such an accusation would have been treated
with contempt. But, unfortunately, Chrysostom had alienated other
bishops also. Yet their hostility would not have been heeded had not
the empress herself, the beautiful and the artful Eudoxia, sided against
him. This proud, ambitious, pleasure-seeking, malignant princess--in
passion a Jezebel, in policy a Catherine de Medici, in personal
fascination a Mary Queen of Scots--hated the archbishop, as Mary hated
John Knox, because he had ventured to reprove her levities and follies;
and through her influence (and how great is the influence of a beautiful
woman on an irresponsible monarch!) the emperor, a weak man, allowed
Theophilus to summon and preside over a council for the trial of
Chrysostom. It assembled at a place called the Oaks, in the suburbs of
Chalcedon, and was composed entirely of the enemies of the Patriarch.
Nothing, however, was said about his heresy: that charge was ridiculous.
But he was accused of slandering the clergy--he had called them corrupt;
of having neglected the duties of hospitality, for he dined generally
alone; of having used expressions unbecoming of the house of God, for he
was severe and sarcastic; of having encroached on the jurisdiction of
foreign bishops in having shielded a few excommunicated monks; and of
being guilty of high treason, since he had preached against the sins of
the empress. On these charges, which he disdained to answer, and before
a council which he deemed illegal, he was condemned; and the emperor
accepted the sentence, and sent him into exile.

But the people of Constantinople would not let him go. They drove away
his enemies from the city; they raised a sedition and a seasonable
earthquake, as Gibbon might call it, and having excited superstitious
fears, the empress caused him to be recalled. His return, of course, was
a triumph. The people spread their garments in his way, and conducted
him in pomp to his archiepiscopal throne. Sixty bishops assembled and
annulled the sentence of the Council of the Oaks. He was now more
popular and powerful than before. But not more prudent. For a silver
statue of the empress having been erected so near to the cathedral that
the games instituted to its honor disturbed the services of the church,
the bishop in great indignation ascended the pulpit, and declaimed
against female vices. The empress at this was furious, and threatened
another council. Chrysostom, still undaunted, then delivered that
celebrated sermon, commencing thus: "Again Herodias raves; again she
dances; again she demands the head of John in a basin." This defiance,
which was regarded as an insult, closed the career of Chrysostom in the
capital of the Empire. Both the emperor and empress determined to
silence him. A new council was convened, and the Patriarch was accused
of violating the canons of the Church. It seems he ventured to preach
before he was formally restored, and for this technical offence he was
again deposed. No second earthquake or popular sedition saved him. He
had sailed too long against the stream. What genius and what fame can
protect a man who mocks or defies the powers that be, whether kings or
people? If Socrates could not be endured at Athens, if Cicero was
banished from Rome, how could this unarmed priest expect immunity from
the possessors of absolute power whom he had offended? It is the fate of
prophets to be stoned. The bold expounders of unpalatable truth ever
have been martyrs, in some form or other.

But Chrysostom met his fate with fortitude, and the only favor which he
asked was to reside in Cyzicus, near Nicomedia. This was refused, and
the place of his exile was fixed at Cucusus,--a remote and desolate city
amid the ridges of Mount Taurus; a distance of seventy days' journey,
which he was compelled to make in the heat of summer.

But he lived to reach this dreary resting-place, and immediately devoted
himself to the charms of literary composition and letters to his
friends. No murmurs escaped him. He did not languish, as Cicero did in
his exile, or even like Thiers in Switzerland. Banishment was not
dreaded by a man who disdained the luxuries of a great capital, and who
was not ambitious of power and rank. Retirement he had sought, even in
his youth, and it was no martyrdom to him so long as he could study,
meditate, and write.

So Chrysostom was serene, even cheerful, amid the blasts of a cold and
cheerless climate. It was there he wrote those noble and interesting
letters, of which two hundred and forty still remain. Indeed, his
influence seemed to increase with his absence from the capital; and this
his enemies beheld with the rage which Napoleon felt for Madame de Staël
when he had banished her to within forty leagues of Paris. So a fresh
order from the Government doomed him to a still more dreary solitude, on
the utmost confines of the Roman Empire, on the coast of the Euxine,
even the desert of Pityus. But his feeble body could not sustain the
fatigues of this second journey. He was worn out with disease, labors,
and austerities; and he died at Comono, in Pontus,--near the place where
Henry Martin died,--in the sixtieth year of his age, a martyr, like
greater men than he.

Nevertheless this martyrdom, and at the hands of a Christian emperor,
filled the world with grief. It was only equalled in intensity by the
martyrdom of Becket in after ages. The voice of envy was at last hushed;
one of the greatest lights of the Church was extinguished forever.
Another generation, however, transported his remains to the banks of the
Bosporus, and the emperor--the second Theodosius--himself advanced to
receive them as far as Chalcedon, and devoutly kneeling before his
coffin, even as Henry II. kneeled at the shrine of Becket, invoked the
forgiveness of the departed saint for the injustice and injuries he had
received. His bones were interred with extraordinary pomp in the tomb of
the apostles, and were afterwards removed to Rome, and deposited, still
later, beneath a marble mausoleum in a chapel of Saint Peter, where they
still remain.

Such were the life and death of the greatest pulpit orator of Christian
antiquity. And how can I describe his influence? His sermons, indeed,
remain; but since we have given up the Fathers to the Catholics, as if
they had a better right to them than we, their writings are not so well
known as they ought to be,--as they will be, when we become broader in
our views and more modest of our own attainments. Few of the Protestant
divines, whom we so justly honor, surpassed Chrysostom in the soundness
of his theology, and in the learning with which he adorned his sermons.
Certainly no one of them has equalled him in his fervid, impassioned,
and classic eloquence. He belongs to the Church universal. The great
divines of the seventeenth century made him the subject of their
admiring study. In the Middle Ages he was one of the great lights of the
reviving schools. Jeremy Taylor, not less than Bossuet, acknowledged his
matchless services. One of his prayers has entered into the beautiful
liturgy of Cranmer. He was a Bernard, a Bourdaloue, and a Whitefield
combined, speaking in the language of Pericles, and on themes which
Paganism never comprehended and the Middle Ages but imperfectly

The permanent influence of such a man can only be measured by the
dignity and power of the pulpit itself in all countries and in all
ages. So far as pulpit eloquence is an art, its greatest master still
speaketh. But greater than his art was the truth which he unfolded and
adorned. It is not because he held the most cultivated audiences of his
age spell-bound by his eloquence, but because he did not fear to deliver
his message, and because he magnified his office, and preached to
emperors and princes as if they were ordinary men, and regarded himself
as the bearer of most momentous truth, and soared beyond human praises,
and forgot himself in his cause, and that cause the salvation of
souls,--it is for these things that I most honor him, and believe that
his name will be held more and more in reverence, as Christianity
becomes more and more the mighty power of the world.


Theodoret; Socrates; Sozomen; Gregory Nazianzen's Orations; the Works of
Chrysostom; Baronius's Annals; Epistle of Saint Jerome; Tillemont's
Ecclesiastical History; Mabillon; Fleury's Ecclesiastical History; Life
of Chrysostom by Monard,--also a Life, by Frederic M. Perthes,
translated by Professor Hovey; Neander's Church History; Gibbon; Milman;
Du Pin; Stanley's Lectures on the Eastern Church. The Lives of the
Fathers have been best written by Frenchmen, and by Catholic historians.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 340-397.


Of the great Fathers, few are dearer to the Church than Ambrose,
Archbishop of Milan, both on account of his virtues and the dignity he
gave to the episcopal office.

Nearly all the great Fathers were bishops, but I select Ambrose as the
representative of their order, because he was more illustrious as a
prelate than as a theologian or orator, although he stood high as both.
He contributed more than any man who preceded him to raise the power of
bishops as one of the controlling agencies of society for more than a
thousand years.

The episcopal office, aside from its spiritual aspects, had become a
great worldly dignity as early as the fourth century. It gave its
possessor rank, power, wealth,--a superb social position, even in the
eyes of worldly men. "Make me but bishop of Rome," said a great Pagan
general, "and I too would become a Christian." As archbishop of Milan,
the second city of Italy, Ambrose found himself one of the highest
dignitaries of the Empire.

Whence this great power of bishops? How happened it that the humble
ministers of a new and persecuted religion became princes of the earth?
What a change from the outward condition of Paul and Peter to that of
Ambrose and Leo!

It would be unpleasant to present this subject on controversial and
sectarian grounds. Let those people--and they are numerous--who believe
in the divine right of bishops, enjoy their opinion; it is not for me to
assail them. Let any party in the Church universal advocate the divine
institution of their own form of government. But I do not believe that
any particular form of government is laid down in the Bible; and yet I
admit that church government is as essential and fundamental a matter as
a worldly government. Government, then, must be in both Church and
State. This _is_ recognized in the Scriptures. No institution or State
can live without it. Men are exhorted by apostles to obey it, as a
Christian duty. But they do not prescribe the form,--leaving that to be
settled by the circumstances of the times, the wants of nations, the
exigencies of the religious world. And whatever form of government
arises, and is confirmed by the wisest and best men, is to be sustained,
is to be obeyed. The people of Germany recognize imperial authority: it
may be the best government for them. England is practically ruled by an
aristocracy,--for the House of Commons is virtually as aristocratic in
sympathies as the House of Lords. In this country we have a
representation of the people, chosen by the people, and ruling for the
people. We think this is the best form of government for us,--just now.
In Athens there was a pure democracy. Which of these forms of civil
government did God appoint?

So in the Church. For four centuries the bishops controlled the infant
Church. For ten centuries afterwards the Popes ruled the Christian
world, and claimed a divine right. The government of the Church assumed
the theocratic form. At the Reformation numerous sects arose, most of
them claiming the indorsement of the Scriptures. Some of these sects
became very high-church; that is, they based their organization on the
supposed authority of the Bible. All these sects are sincere; but they
differ, and they have a right to differ. Probably the day never will
come when there will be uniformity of opinion on church government, any
more than on doctrines in theology.

Now it seems to me that episcopal power arose, like all other powers,
from the circumstances of society,--the wants of the age. One thing
cannot be disputed, that the early bishop--or presbyter, or elder,
whatever name you choose to call him--was a very humble and unimportant
person in the eyes of the world. He lived in no state, in no dignity; he
had no wealth, and no social position outside his flock. He preached in
an upper chamber or in catacombs. Saint Paul preached at Rome with
chains on his arms or legs. The apostles preached to plain people, to
common people, and lived sometimes by the work of their own hands. In a
century or two, although the Church was still hunted and persecuted,
there were nevertheless many converts. These converts contributed from
their small means to the support of the poor. At first the deacons, who
seem to have been laymen, had charge of this money. Paul was too busy a
man himself to serve tables. Gradually there arose the need of a
superintendent, or overseer; and that is the meaning of the Greek word
[Greek: episkopos], from which we get our term _bishop_. Soon,
therefore, the superintendent or bishop of the local church had the
control of the public funds, the expenditure of which he directed. This
was necessary. As converts multiplied and wealth increased, it became
indispensable for the clergy of a city to have a head; this officer
became presiding elder, or bishop,--whose great duty, however, was to
preach. In another century these bishops had become influential; and
when Christianity was established by Constantine as the religion of the
Empire, they added power to influence, for they disbursed great
revenues and ruled a large body of inferior clergy. They were looked up
to; they became honored and revered; and deserved to be, for they were
good men, and some of them learned. Then they sought a warrant for their
power outside the circumstances to which they were indebted for their
elevation. It was easy to find it. What sect cannot find it? They
strained texts of Scripture,--as that great and good man, Moses Stuart,
of Andover, in his zeal for the temperance cause, strained texts to
prove that the wine of Palestine did not intoxicate.

But whatever were the causes which led to the elevation and ascendency
of bishops, the fact is clear enough that episcopal authority began at
an early date; and that bishops were influential in the third century
and powerful in the fourth,--a most fortunate thing, as I conceive, for
the Church at that time. As early as the third century we read of so
great a man as the martyr Cyprian declaring "that bishops had the same
rights as apostles, whose successors they were." In the fourth century,
such illustrious men as Eusebius of Emesa, Athanasius of Alexandria,
Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Martin of Tours, Chrysostom of
Constantinople, and Augustine of Hippo, and sundry other great men whose
writings swayed the human mind until the Reformation, advocated equally
high-church pretensions. The bishops of that day lived in a state of
worldly grandeur, reduced the power of presbyters to a shadow, seated
themselves on thrones, surrounded themselves with the insignia of
princes, claimed the right of judging in civil matters, multiplied the
offices of the Church, and controlled revenues greater than the incomes
of senators and patricians. As for the bishoprics of Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Milan, they were great
governments, and required men of great executive ability to rule them.
Preaching gave way to the multiplied duties and cares of an exalted
station. A bishop was then not often selected because he could preach
well, but because he knew how to govern. Who, even in our times, would
think of filling the See of London, although it is Protestant, with a
man whose chief merit is in his eloquence? They want a business man for
such a post. Eloquence is no objection, but executive ability is the
thing most needed.

So Providence imposed great duties on the bishops of the fourth century,
especially in large cities; and very able as well as good men were
required for this position, equally one of honor and authority.

The See of Milan was then one of the most important in the Empire. It
was the seat of imperial government. Valentinian, an able general, bore
the sceptre of the West; for the Empire was then divided,--Valentinian
ruling the eastern, and his brother Gratian the western, portion of
it,--and, as the Goths were overrunning the civilized world and
threatening Italy, Valentinian fixed his seat of government at Milan. It
was a turbulent city, disgraced by mobs and religious factions. The
Arian party, headed by the Empress Justina, mother of the young emperor,
was exceedingly powerful. It was a critical period, and even orthodoxy
was in danger of being subverted. I might dwell on the miseries of that
period, immediately preceding the fall of the Empire; but all I will say
is, that the See of Milan needed a very able, conscientious, and
wise prelate.

Hence Ambrose was selected, not by the emperor but by the people, in
whom was vested the right of election. He was then governor of that part
of Italy now embraced by the archbishoprics of Milan, Turin, Genoa,
Ravenna, and Bologna,--the greater part of Lombardy and Sardinia. He
belonged to an illustrious Roman family. His father had been praetorian
prefect of Gaul, which embraced not only Gaul, but Britain and
Africa,--about a third of the Roman Empire. The seat of this great
prefecture was Treves; and here Ambrose was born in the year 340. His
early days were of course passed in luxury and pomp. On the death of his
father he retired to Rome to complete his education, and soon
outstripped his noble companions in learning and accomplishments. Such
was his character and position that he was selected, at the age of
thirty-four, for the government of Northern Italy. Nothing eventful
marked his rule as governor, except that he was just, humane, and able.
Had he continued governor, his name would not have passed down in
history; he would have been forgotten like other provincial governors.

But he was destined to a higher sphere and a more exalted position than
that of governor of an important province. On the death of Archbishop
Auxentius, A.D. 374, the See of Milan became vacant. A great
man was required for the archbishopric in that age of factions,
heresies, and tumults. The whole city was thrown into the wildest
excitement. The emperor wisely declined to interfere with the election.
Rival parties could not agree on a candidate. A tumult arose. The
governor--Ambrose--proceeded to the cathedral church, where the election
was going on, to appease the tumult. His appearance produced a momentary
calm, when a little child cried out, "Let Ambrose our governor be our
bishop!" That cry was regarded as a voice from heaven,--as the voice of
inspiration. The people caught the words, re-echoed the cry, and
tumultuously shouted, "Yes! let Ambrose our governor be our bishop!"

And the governor of a great province became archbishop of Milan. This is
a very significant fact. It shows the great dignity and power of the
episcopal office at that time: it transcended in influence and power the
governorship of a province. It also shows the enormous strides which the
Church had made as one of the mighty powers of the world since
Constantine, only about sixty years before, had opened to organized
Christianity the possibilities of influence. It shows how much more
already was thought of a bishop than of a governor.

And what is very remarkable, Ambrose had not even been baptized. He was
a layman. There is no evidence that he was a Christian except in name.
He had passed through no deep experience such as Augustine did, shortly
after this. It was a more remarkable appointment than when Henry II.
made his chancellor, Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. Why was Ambrose
elevated to that great ecclesiastical post? What had he done for the
Church? Did he feel the responsibility of his priestly office? Did he
realize that he was raised in his social position, even in the eye of an
emperor? Why did he not shrink from such an office, on the grounds of

The fact is, as proved by his subsequent administration, he was the
ablest man for that post to be found in Italy. He was really the most
fitting man. If ever a man was called to be a priest, he was called. He
had the confidence of both the emperor and the people. Such confidence
can be based only on transcendent character. He was not selected because
he was learned or eloquent, but because he had administrative ability;
and because he was just and virtuous.

A great outward change in his life marked his elevation, as in Becket
afterwards. As soon as he was baptized, he parted with his princely
fortune and scattered it among the poor, like Cyprian and Chrysostom.
This was in accordance with one of the great ideas of the early Church,
almost impossible to resist. Charity unbounded, allied with poverty, was
the great test of practical Christianity. It was afterwards lost sight
of by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, and never was recognized
by Protestantism at all, not even in theory. Thrift has been one of the
watchwords of Protestantism for three hundred years. One of the boasts
of Protestantism has been its superior material prosperity. Travellers
have harped on the worldly thrift of Protestant countries. The Puritans,
full of the Old Testament, like the Jews, rejoiced in an outward
prosperity as one of the evidences of the favor of God. The Catholics
accuse the Protestants, of not only giving birth to rationalism, in
their desire to extend liberality of mind, but of fostering a material
life in their ambition to be outwardly prosperous. I make no comment on
this fact; I only state it, for everybody knows the accusation to be
true, and most people rejoice in it. One of the chief arguments I used
to hear for the observance of public worship was, that it would raise
the value of property and improve the temporal condition of the
worshippers,--so that temporal thrift was made to be indissolubly
connected with public worship. "Go to church, and you will thrive in
business. Become a Sabbath-school teacher, and you will gain social
position." Such arguments logically grow out from linking the kingdom of
heaven with success in life, and worldly prosperity with the outward
performance of religious duties,--all of which may be true, and
certainly marks Protestantism, but is somewhat different from the ideas
of the Church eighteen hundred years ago. But those were unenlightened
times, when men said, "How hardly shall they who have riches enter into
the kingdom of God."

I pass now to consider the services which Ambrose rendered to the
Church, and which have given him a name in history.

One of these was the zealous conservation of the truths he received on
authority. To guard the purity of the faith was one of the most
important functions of a primitive bishop. The last thing the Church
would tolerate in one of her overseers was a Gallio in religion. She
scorned those philosophical dignitaries who would sit in the seats of
Moses and Paul, and use the speculations of the Greeks to build up the
orthodox faith. The last thing which a primitive bishop thought of was
to advance against Goliath, not with the sling of David, but with the
weapons of Pagan Grecian schools. It was incumbent on the watchman who
stood on the walls of Zion, to see that no suspicious enemy entered her
hallowed gates. The Church gave to him that trust, and reposed in his
fidelity. Now Ambrose was not a great scholar, nor a subtle theologian.
Nor was he dexterous in the use of dialectical weapons, like Athanasius,
Augustine, or Thomas Aquinas. But he was sufficiently intelligent to
know what the authorities declared to be orthodox. He knew that the
fashionable speculations about the Trinity were not the doctrines of
Paul. He knew that self-expiation was not the expiation of the cross;
that the mission of Christ was something more than to set a good
example; that faith was not estimation merely; that regeneration was not
a mere external change of life; that the Divine government was a
perpetual interference to bring good out of evil, even if it were in
accordance with natural law. He knew that the boastful philosophy by
which some sought to bolster up Christianity was that against which the
apostles had warned the faithful. He knew that the Church was attacked
in her most vital points, even in doctrines,--for "as a man thinketh,
so is he."

So he fearlessly entered the lists against the heretics, most of whom
were enrolled among the Manicheans, Pelagians, and Arians.

The Manicheans were not the most dangerous, but they were the most
offensive. Their doctrines were too absurd to gain a lasting foothold in
the West. But they made great pretensions to advanced thought, and
engrafted on Christianity the speculations of the East as to the origin
of evil and the nature of God. They were not only dreamy theosophists,
but materialists under the disguise of spiritualism. I shall have more
to say of these people in the next Lecture, on Augustine, since one of
his great fights was against the Manichean heresy. So I pass them by
with only a brief allusion to their opinions.

The Arians were the most powerful and numerous body of heretics,--if I
may use the language of historians,--and it was against these that
Ambrose chiefly contended. The great battle against them had been fought
by Athanasius two generations before; but they had not been put down.
Their doctrines extensively prevailed among many of the barbaric
chieftains, and the empress herself was an Arian, as well as many
distinguished bishops. Ambrose did not deny the great intellectual
ability of Arius, nor the purity of his morals; but he saw in his
doctrines the virtual denial of Christ's divinity and atonement, and a
glorification of the reason, and an exaltation of the will, which
rendered special divine grace unnecessary. The Arian controversy, which
lasted one hundred years, and has been repeatedly revived, was not a
mere dialectical display, not a war of words, but the most important
controversy in which theologians ever enlisted, and the most vital in
its logical deductions. Macaulay sneers at the _homoousian_ and the
_homoiousian_; and when viewed in a technical point of view, it may seem
to many frivolous and vain. But the distinctions of the Trinity, which
Arius sought to sweep away, are essential to the unity and completeness
of the whole scheme of salvation, as held by the Church to have been
revealed in the Scriptures; for if Christ is a mere creature of God,--a
creation, and not one with Him in essence,--then his death would avail
nothing for the efficacy of salvation; or,--to use the language of
theologians, who have ever unfortunately blended the declarations and
facts of Scripture with dialectical formularies, which are deductions
made by reason and logic from accepted truths, yet not so binding as the
plain truths themselves,--Christ's death would be insufficient for an
infinite redemption. No propitiation of a created being could atone for
the sins of all other creatures. Thus by the Arian theory the Christ of
the orthodox church was blotted out, and a man was substituted, who was
divine only in the matchless purity of his life and the transcendent
wisdom of his utterances; so that Christ, logically, was a pattern and
teacher, and not a redeemer. Now, historically, everybody knows that for
three hundred years Christ was viewed and worshipped as the Son of
God,--a divine, uncreated being, who assumed a mortal form to make an
atonement or propitiation for the sins of the world. Hence the doctrines
of Arius undermined, so far as they were received, the whole theology of
the early Church, and obscured the light of faith itself. I am compelled
to say this, if I speak at all of the Arians, which I do historically
rather than controversially. If I eliminated theology and political
theories and changes from my Lectures altogether, there would be nothing
left but commonplace matter.

But Ambrose had powerful enemies to contend with in his defence of the
received doctrines of the Church. The Empress Faustina was herself an
Arian, and the patroness of the sect. Milan was filled with its
defenders, turbulent and insolent under the shield of the court. It was
the headquarters of the sect at that time. Arianism was fashionable; and
the empress had caused an edict to be passed, in the name of her son
Valentinian, by which liberty of conscience and worship was granted to
the Arians. She also caused a bishop of her nomination and creed to
challenge Ambrose to a public disputation in her palace on the points in
question. Now what course did Ambrose pursue? Nothing could be fairer,
apparently, than the proposal of the empress,--nothing more just than
her demands. We should say that she had enlightened reason on her side,
for heresy can never be exterminated by force, unless the force is
overwhelming,--as in the persecution of the Huguenots by Louis XIV.,
or the slaughter of the Albigenses by Innocent III. or the princes
he incited to that cruel act. Ambrose, however, did not regard
the edict as suggested by the love of toleration, but as the
desire for ascendency,--as an advanced post to be taken in the
conflict,--introductory to the triumph of the Arian doctrines in the
West, and which the Arian emperor and his bishops intended should
ultimately be the established religion of the Western nations. It was
not a fight for toleration, but for ascendency. Moreover Ambrose saw in
Arianism a hostile creed,--a dangerous error, subversive of what is most
vital in Christianity. So he determined to make no concessions at all,
to give no foothold to the enemy in a desperate fight. The least
concession, he thought, would be followed by the demand for new
concessions, and would be a cause of rejoicing to his enemies and of
humiliation to his friends; and in accordance with the everlasting
principles of all successful warfare he resolved to yield not one jot or
tittle. The slightest concession was a compromise, and a compromise
might lead to defeat. There could be no compromise on such a vital
question as the divinity of our Lord. He might have conceded the wisdom
of compromise in some quarrel about temporal matters. Had he, as
governor of a province, been required to make some concession to
conquering barbarians,--had he been a modern statesman devising a
constitution, a matter of government,--he might have acted differently.
A policy about tariffs and revenues, all resting on unsettled principles
of political economy, may have been a matter of compromise,--not the
fundamental principles of the Christian religion, as declared by
inspiration, and which he was bound to accept as they were revealed and
declared, whether they could be reconciled with his reason or not. There
is great moral grandeur in the conflict of fundamental principles of
religion; and there is equal grandeur in the conflict between principles
and principalities, between combatants armed with spiritual weapons and
combatants armed with the temporal sword, between defenceless priests
and powerful emperors, between subjects and the powers that be, between
men speaking in the name of God Almighty and men at the head of
armies,--the former strong in the invisible power of truth; the latter
resplendent with material forces.

Ambrose did not shun the conflict and the danger. Never before had a
priest dared to confront an emperor, except to offer up his life as a
martyr. Who could resist Caesar on his own ground? In the approaching
conflict we see the precursor of the Hildebrands and the Beckets. One of
the claims of Luther as a hero was his open defiance of the Pope, when
no person in his condition had ever before ventured on such a step. But
a Roman emperor, in his own capital, was greater than a distant Pope,
especially when the defiant monk was protected by a powerful prince.
Ambrose had the exalted merit of being the first to resist his emperor,
not as a martyr willing to die for his cause, but as a prelate in a
desperate and open fight,--as a prelate seeking to conquer. He was the
first notable man to raise the standard of independent spiritual
authority. Consider, for a moment, what a tremendous step that was,--how
pregnant with future consequences. He was the first of all the heroes of
the Church who dared to contend with the temporal powers, not as a man
uttering a protest, but as an equal adversary,--as a warrior bent on
victory. Therefore has his name great historical importance. I know of
no man who equalled him in intrepidity, and in a far-reaching policy. I
fancy him looking down the vista of the ages, and deliberately laying
the foundation of an arrogant spiritual power. What an example did he
set for the popes and bishops of the Middle Ages! Here was a just and
equal law, as we should say,--a beneficent law of religious toleration,
as it would outwardly appear,--which Ambrose, as a subject of the
emperor, was required to obey. True, it was in reference to a spiritual
matter, but emperors, from Caesar downwards, as Pontifex Maximus, had
believed it their right and province to meddle in such matters. See what
a hand Constantine had in the organization of the Church, even in the
discussion of religious doctrines. He presided at the Council of Nice,
where the great subject of discussion was the Trinity. But the
Archbishop of Milan dares to say, virtually, to the emperor, "This
law-making about our church matters is none of your concern.
Christianity has abrogated your power as High Priest. In spiritual
things we will not obey you. Your enactments conflict with the divine
laws,--higher than yours; and we, in this matter of conscience, defy
your authority. We will obey God rather than you." See in this defiance
the rise of a new power,--the power of the Middle Ages,--the reign of
the clergy.

In the first place, Ambrose refused to take part in a religious
disputation held in the palace of his enemy,--in any palace where a
monarch sat as umpire. The Church was the true place for a religious
controversy, and the umpire, if such were needed, should be a priest and
not a layman. The idea of temporal lords settling a disputed point of
theology seemed to him preposterous. So, with blended indignation and
haughtiness, he declared it was against the usages of the Church for the
laity to sit as judges in theological discussions; that in all spiritual
matters emperors were subordinate to bishops, not bishops to emperors.
Oh, how great is the posthumous influence of original heroes!
Contemplate those fiery remonstrances of Ambrose,--the first on
record,--when prelates and emperors contended for the mastery, and you
will see why the Archbishop of Milan is so great a favorite of the
Catholic Church.

And what was the response of the empress, who ruled in the name of her
son, in view of this disobedience and defiance? Chrysostom dared to
reprove female vices; he did not rebel against imperial power. But
Ambrose raised an issue with his sovereign. And this angry sovereign
sent forth her soldiers to eject Ambrose from the city. The haughty and
insolent priest should be exiled, should be imprisoned, should die.
Shall he be permitted to disobey an imperial command? Where would then
be the imperial authority?--a mere shadow in an age of anarchy.

Ambrose did not oppose force by force. His warfare was not carnal, but
spiritual. He would not, if he could, have braved the soldiers of the
Government by rallying his adherents in the streets. That would have
been a mob, a sedition, a rebellion.

But he seeks the shelter of his church, and prays to Almighty God. And
his friends and admirers--the people to whom he preached, to whom he is
an oracle--also follow him to his sanctuary. The church is crowded with
his adherents, but they are unarmed. Their trust is not in the armor of
Goliath, nor even in the sling of David, but in that power which
protected Daniel in the lions' den. The soldiers are armed, and they
surround the spacious basilica, the form which the church then assumed.
And yet though they surround the church in battle array, they dare not
force the doors,--they dare not enter. Why? Because the church had
become a sacred place. It was consecrated to the worship of Jehovah. The
soldiers were afraid of the wrath of God more than of the wrath of
Faustina or Valentinian. What do you see in this fact? You see how
religious ideas had permeated the minds even of soldiers. They were not
strong enough or brave enough to fight the ideas of their age. Why did
not the troops of Louis XVI. defend the Bastille? They were strong
enough; its cannon could have demolished the whole Faubourg St. Antoine.
Alas! the soldiers who defended that fortress had caught the ideas of
the people. They fraternized with them, rather than with the Government;
they were afraid of opposing the ideas which shook France to its centre.
So the soldiers of the imperial government at Milan, converted to the
ideas of Christianity, or sympathizing with them, or afraid of them,
dared not assail the church to which Ambrose fled for refuge. Behold in
this fact the majestic power of ideas when they reach the people.

But if the soldiers dared not attack Ambrose and his followers in a
consecrated place, they might starve him out, or frighten him into a
surrender. At this point appears the intrepidity of the Christian hero.
Day after day, and night after night, the bishop maintained his post.
The time was spent in religious exercises. The people listened to
exhortation; they prayed; they sang psalms. Then was instituted, amid
that long-protracted religious meeting that beautiful antiphonal chant
of Ambrose, which afterwards, modified and simplified by Pope Gregory,
became the great attraction of religious worship in all the cathedrals
and abbeys and churches of Europe for more than one thousand years. It
was true congregational singing, in which all took part; simple and
religious as the songs of Methodists, both to drive away fear and ennui,
and fortify the soul by inspiring melodies,--not artistic music borrowed
from the opera and oratorio, and sung by four people, in a distant loft,
for the amusement of the rich pew-holders of a fashionable congregation,
and calculated to make it forget the truths which the preacher has
declared; but more like the hymns and anthems of the son of Jesse, when
sung by the whole synagogue, making the vaulted roof and lofty pillars
of the Medieval church re-echo the paeans of the transported

At last there were signs of rebellion among the soldiers. The new
spiritual power was felt, even among them. They were tired of their
work; they hated it, since Ambrose was the representative of ideas that
claimed obedience no less than the temporal powers. The spiritual and
temporal powers were, in fact, arrayed against each other,--an unarmed
clergy, declaring principles, against an armed soldiery with swords and
lances. What an unequal fight! Why, the very weapons of the soldier are
in defence of ideas! The soldier himself is very strong in defence of
universally recognized principles, like law and government, whose
servant he is. In the case of Ambrose, it was the supposed law of God
against the laws of man. What soldier dares to fight against
Omnipotence, if he believes at all in the God to whom he is as
personally responsible as he is to a ruler?

Ambrose thus remained the victor. The empress was defeated. But she was
a woman, and had persistency; she had no intention of succumbing to a
priest, and that priest her subject. With subtle dexterity she would
change the mode of attack, not relinquish the fight. She sought to
compromise. She promised to molest Ambrose no more if he would allow
_one_ church for the Arians. If the powerful metropolitan would concede
that, he might return to his palace in safety; she would withdraw the
soldiers. But this he refused. Not one church, declared he, should the
detractors of our Lord possess in the city over which he presided as
bishop. The Government might take his revenues, might take his life; but
he would be true to his cause. With his last breath he would defend the
Church, and the doctrines on which it rested.

The angry empress then renewed her attack more fiercely. She commanded
the troops to seize by force one of the churches of the city for the use
of the Arians; and the bishop was celebrating the sacred mysteries on
Palm Sunday when news was brought to him of this outrage,--of this
encroachment on the episcopal authority. The whole city was thrown into
confusion. Every man armed himself; some siding with the empress, and
others with the bishop. The magistrates were in despair, since they
could not maintain law and order. They appealed to Ambrose to yield for
the sake of peace and public order. To whom he replied, in substance,
"What is that to me? My kingdom is not of this world. I will not
interfere in civil matters. The responsibility of maintaining order in
the streets does not rest on me, but on you. See you to that. It is only
by prayer that I am strong."

Again the furious empress--baffled, not conquered--ordered the soldiers
to seize the person of Ambrose in his church. But they were
terror-stricken. Seize the minister at the altar of Omnipotence! It was
not to be thought of. They refused to obey. They sent word to the
imperial palace that they would only take possession of the church on
the sole condition that the emperor (who was controlled by his mother)
should abandon Arianism. How angry must have been the Court! Soldiers
not only disobedient, but audaciously dictating in matters of religion!
But this treason on the part of the defenders of the throne was a very
serious matter. The Court now became alarmed in its turn. And this alarm
was increased when the officers of the palace sided with the bishop. "I
perceive," said the crestfallen and defeated monarch, and in words of
bitterness, "that I am only the shadow of an emperor, to whom you dare
dictate my religious belief."

Valentinian was at last aroused to a sense of his danger. He might be
dragged from his throne and assassinated. He saw that his throne was
undermined by a priest, who used only these simple words, "It is my duty
to obey God rather than man." A rebellious mob, an indignant court, a
superstitious soldiery, and angry factions compelled him to recall his
guards. It was a great triumph for the archbishop. Face to face he had
defeated the emperor. The temporal power had yielded to the spiritual.
Six hundred years before Henry IV. stooped to beg the favor and
forgiveness of Hildebrand, at the fortress of Canossa, the State had
conceded the supremacy of the Church in the person of the
fearless Ambrose.

Not only was Ambrose an intrepid champion of the Church and the orthodox
faith, but he was often sent, in critical crises, as an ambassador to
the barbaric courts. Such was the force and dignity of his personal
character. This is one of the first examples on record of a priest
being employed by kings in the difficult art of negotiation in State
matters; but it became very common in the Middle Ages for prelates and
abbots to be ambassadors of princes, since they were not only the most
powerful but most intelligent and learned personages of their times.
They had, moreover, the most tact and the most agreeable manners.

When Maximus revolted against the feeble Gratian (emperor of the West),
subdued his forces, took his life, and established himself in Gaul,
Spain, and Britain, the Emperor Valentinian sent Ambrose to the
barbarian's court to demand the body of his murdered brother. Arriving
at Treves, the seat of the prefecture, where his father had been
governor, he repaired at once to the palace of the usurper, and demanded
an interview with Maximus. The lord chamberlain informed him he could
only be heard before council. Led to the council chamber, the usurper
arose to give him the accustomed kiss of salutation among the Teutonic
kings. But Ambrose refused it, and upbraided the potentate for
compelling him to appear in the council chamber. "But," replied Maximus,
"on a former mission you came to this chamber." "True," replied the
prelate, "but then I came to sue for peace, as a suppliant; now I come
to demand, as an equal, the body of Gratian." "An equal, are you?"
replied the usurper; "from whom have you received this rank?" "From God
Almighty," replied the prelate, "who preserves to Valentinian the empire
he has given him." On this, the angry Maximus threatened the life of the
ambassador, who, rising in wrath, in his turn thus addressed him, before
all his councillors: "Since you have robbed an anointed prince of his
throne, at least restore his ashes to his kindred. Do _you_ fear a
tumult when the soldiers shall see the dead body of their murdered
emperor? What have you to fear from a corpse whose death you ordered? Do
you say you only destroyed your enemy? Alas! he was not _your_ enemy,
but you were _his_. If some one had possessed himself of your provinces,
as you seized those of Gratian, would not he--instead of you--be the
enemy? Can you call him an enemy who only sought to preserve what was
his own? Who is the lawful sovereign,--he who seeks to keep together his
legitimate provinces, or he who has succeeded in wresting them away? Oh,
thou successful usurper! God himself shall smite thee. Thou shalt be
delivered into the hands of Theodosius. Thou shalt lose thy kingdom and
thy life." How the prelate reminds us of a Jewish prophet giving to
kings unwelcome messages,--of Daniel pointing out to Belshazzar the
handwriting on the wall! He was not a Priam begging the dead body of his
son, or hurling impotent weapons amid the crackling ruins of Troy, but
an Elijah at the court of Ahab. But this fearlessness was surpassed by
the boldness of rebuke which later he dared to give to Theodosius, when
this great general had defeated the Goths, and postponed for a time the
ruin of the Empire, of which he became the supreme and only emperor.
Theodosius was in fact one of the greatest of the emperors, and the last
great man who swayed the sceptre of Trajan, his ancestor. On him the
vulgar and the high-born equally gazed with admiration,--and yet he was
not great enough to be free from vices, patron as he was of the Church
and her institutions.

It seems that this illustrious emperor, in a fit of passion, ordered the
slaughter of the people of Thessalonica, because they had arisen and
killed some half-a-dozen of the officers of the government, in a
sedition, on account of the imprisonment of a favorite circus-rider. The
wrath of Theodosius knew no bounds. He had once before forgiven the
people of Antioch for a more outrageous insult to imperial authority;
but he would not pardon the people of Thessalonica, and caused some
seven thousand of them to be executed,--an outrageous vengeance, a crime
against humanity. The severity of this punishment filled the whole
Empire with consternation. Ambrose himself was so overwhelmed with grief
and indignation that he retired into the country in order to avoid all
intercourse with his sovereign. And there he remained, until the emperor
came to himself and comprehended the enormity of his crime. But Ambrose
wrote a letter to the emperor, in which he insisted on his repentance
and expiation. The emperor was so touched by the fidelity and eloquence
of the prelate that he came to the cathedral to offer up his customary
oblations. But the bishop, in his episcopal robes, met him at the porch
and forbade his entrance. "Do not think, O Emperor, to atone for the
enormity of your offence by merely presenting yourself in the church.
Dream not of entering these sacred precincts with your hands stained
with blood. Receive with submission the sentence of the Church." Then
Theodosius attempted to justify himself by the example of David. "But,"
retorted the bishop, "if you imitate David in his crime, imitate David
in his repentance. Insult not the Church by a double crime." So the
emperor, in spite of his elevated rank and power, was obliged to return.
The festival of Christmas approached, the great holiday of the Church,
and then was seen one of the rarest spectacles which history records.
The great emperor, now with undivided authority, penetrated with grief
and shame and penitence, again approached the sacred edifice, and openly
made a full confession of his sins; and not till then was he received
into the communion of the Church.

I think this scene is grand; worthy of a great painter,--of a painter
who knows history as well as art, which so few painters do know; yet
ought to know if they would produce immortal pictures. Nor do I know
which to admire the more,--the penitent emperor offering public penance
for his abuse of imperial authority, or the brave and conscientious
prelate who dared to rebuke his sin. When has such a thing happened in
modern times? Bossuet had the courage to dictate, in the royal chapel,
the duties of a king, and Bourdaloue once ventured to reprove his royal
hearer for an outrageous scandal. These instances of priestly boldness
and fidelity are cited as remarkable. And they were remarkable, when we
consider what an egotistical, haughty, exacting, voluptuous monarch
Louis XIV. was,--a monarch who killed Racine by an angry glance. But
what bishop presumed to insist on public penance for the persecutions of
the Huguenots, or the lavish expenditures and imperious tyranny of the
court mistresses, who scandalized France? I read of no churchman who, in
more recent times, has dared to reprove and openly rebuke a sovereign,
in the style of Ambrose, except John Knox. Ambrose not merely reproved,
but he punished, and brought the greatest emperor, since Constantine, to
the stool of penitence.

It was by such acts, as prelate, that Ambrose won immortal fame, and set
an example to future ages. His whole career is full of such deeds of
intrepidity. Once he refused to offer the customary oblation of the
altar until Theodosius had consented to remit an unjust fine. He battled
all enemies alike,--infidels, emperors, and Pagans. It was his mission
to act, rather than to talk. His greatness was in his character, like
that of our Washington, who was not a man of words or genius. What a
failure is a man in an exalted post without character!

But he had also other qualities which did him honor,--for which we
reverence him. See his laborious life, his assiduity in the discharge of
every duty, his charity, his broad humanity, soaring beyond mere
conventional and technical and legal piety. See him breaking in pieces
the consecrated vessels of the cathedral, and turning them into money to
redeem Illyrian captives; and when reproached for this apparent
desecration replying thus: "Whether is it better to preserve our gold or
the souls of men? Has the Church no higher mission to fulfil than to
guard the ornaments made by men's hands, while the faithful are
suffering exile and bonds? Do the blessed sacraments need silver and
gold, to be efficacious? What greater service to the Church can we
render than charities to the unfortunate, in obedience to that eternal
test, 'I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat'"? See this venerated
prelate giving away his private fortune to the poor; see him refusing
even to handle money, knowing the temptation to avarice or greed. What
a low estimate he placed on what was so universally valued, measuring
money by the standard of eternal weights! See this good bishop, always
surrounded with the pious and the learned, attending to all their wants,
evincing with his charities the greatest capacity of friendship. His
affections went out to all the world, and his chamber was open to
everybody. The companion and Mentor of emperors, the prelate charged
with the most pressing duties finds time for all who seek his advice or

One of the most striking facts which attest his goodness was his
generous and affectionate treatment of Saint Augustine, at that time an
unconverted teacher of rhetoric. It was Ambrose who was instrumental in
his conversion; and only a man of broad experience, and deep
convictions, and profound knowledge, and exquisite tact, could have had
influence over the greatest thinker of Christian antiquity. Augustine
not only praises the private life of Ambrose, but the eloquence of his
sermons; and I suppose that Augustine was a judge in such matters.
"For," says Augustine, "while I opened my heart to admire how eloquently
he spoke, I also felt how truly he spoke." Everybody equally admired and
loved this great metropolitan, because his piety was enlightened,
because he was above all religious tricks and pious frauds. He even
refused money for the Church when given grudgingly, or extorted by
plausible sophistries. He remitted to a poor woman a legacy which her
brother had given to the Church, leaving her penniless and dependent;
declaring that "if the Church is to be enriched at the expense of
fraternal friendships, if family ties are to be sundered, the cause of
Christ would be dishonored rather than advanced." We see here not only a
broad humanity, but a profound sense of justice,--a practical piety,
showing an enlightened and generous soul. He was not the man to allow a
family to be starved because a conscience-stricken husband or father
wished, under ghostly influences and in face of death, to make a
propitiation for a life of greediness and usurious grindings, by an
unjust disposition of his fortune to the Church. Possibly he had doubts
whether any money would benefit the Church which was obtained by wicked
arts, or had been originally gained by injustice and hard-heartedness.

Thus does Saint Ambrose come down to us from antiquity,--great in his
feats of heroism, great as an executive ruler of the Church, great in
deeds of benevolence, rather than as orator, theologian, or student.
Yet, like Chrysostom, he preached every Sunday, and often in the week
besides, and his sermons had great power on his generation. When he died
in 397 he left behind him even a rich legacy of theological treatises,
as well as some fervid, inspiring hymns, and an influence for the better
in the modes of church music, which was the beginning of the modern
development of that great element in public worship. As a defender of
the faith by his pen, he may have yielded to greater geniuses than he;
but as the guardian of the interests of the Church, as a stalwart giant,
who prostrated the kings of the earth before him and gained the first
great battles of the spiritual over the temporal power, Ambrose is
worthy to be ranked among the great Fathers, and will continue to
receive the praises of enlightened Christendom.


Life of Ambrose, by his deacon, Paulinus; Theodoret; Tillemont's
Memoires Ecclesiastique, tom. x; Baronius; Zosimus; the Epistles of
Ambrose; Butler's Lives of the Saints; Biographie Universelle; Gibbon's
Decline and Fall. Milman has only a very brief notice of this great
bishop, the founder of sacerdotalism in the Latin Church. Neander's and
the standard Church Histories. There are some popular biographical
sketches in the encyclopedias, but no classical history of this prelate,
in English, with which I am acquainted. The French writers are the best.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 354-430.


The most intellectual of all the Fathers of the Church was doubtless
Saint Augustine. He is the great oracle of the Latin Church. He directed
the thinking of the Christian world for a thousand years. He was not
perhaps so learned as Origen, nor so critical as Jerome; but he was
broader, profounder, and more original than they, or any other of the
great lights who shed the radiance of genius on the crumbling fabric of
the ancient civilization. He is the sainted doctor of the Church,
equally an authority with both Catholics and Protestants. His
penetrating genius, his comprehensive views of all systems of ancient
thought, and his marvellous powers as a systematizer of Christian
doctrines place him among the immortal benefactors of mankind; while his
humanity, his breadth, his charity, and his piety have endeared him to
the heart of the Christian world.

Let me present, as well as I can, his history, his services, and his
personal character, all of which form no small part of the inheritance
bequeathed to us by the giants of the fourth and fifth centuries,--that
which we call the Patristic literature,--the only literature worthy of
preservation in the declining days of the old Roman world.

Augustine was born at Tagaste, or Tagastum, near Carthage, in the
Numidian province of the Roman Empire, in the year 354,--a province
rich, cultivated, luxurious, where the people (at least the educated
classes) spoke the Latin language, and had adopted the Roman laws and
institutions. They were not black, like negroes, though probably
swarthy, being descended from Tyrians and Greeks, as well as Numidians.
They were as civilized as the Spaniards or the Gauls or the Syrians.
Carthage then rivalled Alexandria, which was a Grecian city. If
Augustine was not as white as Ptolemy or Cleopatra, he was probably no
darker than Athanasius.

Unlike most of the great Fathers, his parentage was humble. He owed
nothing to the circumstances of wealth and rank. His father was a
heathen, and lived, as Augustine tells us, in "heathenish sin." But his
mother was a woman of remarkable piety and strength of mind, who devoted
herself to the education of her son. Augustine never alludes to her
except with veneration; and his history adds additional confirmation to
the fact that nearly all the remarkable men of our world have had
remarkable mothers. No woman is dearer to the Church than Monica, the
sainted mother of Augustine, and chiefly in view of her intense
solicitude for his spiritual interests, and her extraordinary faith in
his future conversion, in spite of his youthful follies and
excesses,--encouraged by that good bishop who told her "that it was
impossible that the child of so many prayers could be lost."

Augustine, in his "Confessions,"--that remarkable book which has lasted
fifteen hundred years, and is still prized for its intensity, its
candor, and its profound acquaintance with the human heart, as well as
evangelical truth; not an egotistical parade of morbid sentimentalities,
like the "Confessions" of Rousseau, but a mirror of Christian
experience,--tells us that until he was sixteen he was obstinate, lazy,
neglectful of his studies, indifferent to reproach, and abandoned to
heathenish sports. He even committed petty thefts, was quarrelsome, and
indulged in demoralizing pleasures. At nineteen he was sent to Carthage
to be educated, where he went still further astray; was a follower of
stage-players (then all but infamous), and gave himself up to unholy
loves. But his intellect was inquiring, his nature genial, and his
habits as studious as could be reconciled with a life of pleasure,--a
sort of Alcibiades, without his wealth and rank, willing to listen to
any Socrates who would stimulate his mind. With all his excesses and
vanities, he was not frivolous, and seemed at an early age to be a
sincere inquirer after truth. The first work which had a marked effect
on him was the "Hortensius" of Cicero,--a lost book, which contained an
eloquent exhortation to philosophy, or the love of wisdom. From that he
turned to the Holy Scriptures, but they seemed to him then very poor,
compared with the stateliness of Tully, nor could his sharp wit
penetrate their meaning. Those who seemed to have the greatest influence
over him were the Manicheans,--a transcendental, oracular, indefinite,
illogical, pretentious set of philosophers, who claimed superior wisdom,
and were not unlike (at least in spirit) those modern _savans_ in the
Christian commonwealth, who make a mockery of what is most sacred in
Christianity while themselves propounding the most absurd theories.

The Manicheans claimed to be a Christian sect, but were Oriental in
their origin and Pagan in their ideas. They derived their doctrines from
Manes, or Mani, who flourished in Persia in the second half of the third
century, and who engrafted some Christian doctrines on his system, which
was essentially the dualism of Zoroaster and the pantheism of Buddha. He
assumed two original substances,--God and Hyle, light and darkness,
good and evil,--which were opposed to each other. Matter, which is
neither good nor evil, was regarded as bad in itself, and identified
with darkness, the prince of which overthrew the primitive man. Among
the descendants of the fallen man light and darkness have struggled for
supremacy, but matter, or darkness, conquered; and Christ, who was
confounded with the sun, came to break the dominion. But the light of
his essential being could not unite with darkness; therefore he was not
born of a woman, nor did he die to rise again. Christ had thus no
personal existence. As the body, being matter, was thought to be
essentially evil, it was the aim of the Manicheans to set the soul free
from matter; hence abstinence, and the various forms of asceticism which
early entered into the pietism of the Oriental monks. That which gave
the Manicheans a hold on the mind of Augustine, seeking after truth, was
their arrogant claim to the solution of mysteries, especially the origin
of evil, and their affectation of superior knowledge. Their watchwords
were Reason, Science, Philosophy. Moreover, like the Sophists in the
time of Socrates, they were assuming, specious, and rhetorical.
Augustine--ardent, imaginative, credulous--was attracted by them, and he
enrolled himself in their esoteric circle.

The coarser forms of sin he now abandoned, only to resign himself to the
emptiness of dreamy speculations and the praises of admirers. He won
prizes and laurels in the schools. For nine years he was much flattered
for his philosophical attainments. I can almost see this enthusiastic
youth scandalizing and shocking his mother and her friends by his bold
advocacy of doctrines at war with the gospel, but which he supposed to
be very philosophical. Pert and bright young men in these times often
talk as he did, but do not know enough to see their own shallowness.

     "Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

The mind of Augustine, however, was logical, and naturally profound; and
at last he became dissatisfied with the nonsense with which plausible
pretenders ensnared him. He was then what we should call a schoolmaster,
or what some would call a professor, and taught rhetoric for his
support, which was a lucrative and honorable calling. He became a master
of words. From words he ascended to definitions, and like all true
inquirers began to love the definite, the precise. He wanted a basis to
stand upon. He sought certitudes,--elemental truths which sophistry
could not cover up. Then the Manicheans could no longer satisfy him. He
had doubts, difficulties, which no Manichean could explain, not even Dr.
Faustus of Mileve, the great oracle and leader of the sect,--a subtle
dialectician and brilliant orator, but without depth or
earnestness,--whom he compares to a cup-bearer presenting a costly
goblet, but without anything in it. And when it became clear that this
high-priest of pretended wisdom was ignorant of the things in which he
was supposed to excel, but which Augustine himself had already learned,
his disappointment was so great that he lost faith both in the teacher
and his doctrines. Thus this Faustus, "neither willing nor witting it,"
was the very man who loosened the net which had ensnared Augustine for
so many years.

He was now thirty years of age, and had taught rhetoric in Carthage, the
capital of Northern Africa, with brilliant success, for three years; but
panting for new honors or for new truth, he removed to Rome, to pursue
both his profession and his philosophical studies. He entered the
capital of the world in the height of its material glories, but in the
decline of its political importance, when Damasus occupied the episcopal
throne, and Saint Jerome was explaining the Scriptures to the high-born
ladies of Mount Aventine, who grouped around him,--women like Paula,
Fabiola, and Marcella. Augustine knew none of these illustrious people.
He lodged with a Manichean, and still frequented the meetings of the
sect; convinced, indeed, that the truth was not with them, but
despairing to find it elsewhere. In this state of mind he was drawn to
the doctrines of the New Academy,--or, as Augustine in his
"Confessions" calls them, the Academics,--whose representatives,
Arcesilaus and Carneades, also made great pretensions, but denied the
possibility of arriving at absolute truth,--aiming only at probability.
However lofty the speculations of these philosophers, they were
sceptical in their tendency. They furnished no anchor for such an
earnest thinker as Augustine. They gave him no consolation. Yet his
dislike of Christianity remained.

Moreover, he was disappointed with Rome. He did not find there the great
men he sought, or if great men were there he could not get access to
them. He found himself in a moral desert, without friends and congenial
companions. He found everybody so immersed in pleasure, or gain, or
frivolity, that they had no time or inclination for the quest for truth,
except in those circles he despised. "Truth," they cynically said, "what
_is_ truth? Will truth enable us to make eligible matches with rich
women? Will it give us luxurious banquets, or build palaces, or procure
chariots of silver, or robes of silk, or oysters of the Lucrine lake, or
Falernian wines? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Inasmuch
as the arts of rhetoric enabled men to rise at the bar or shine in
fashionable circles, he had plenty of scholars; but they left his
lecture-room when required to pay. At Carthage his pupils were
boisterous and turbulent; at Rome they were tricky and mean. The
professor was not only disappointed,--he was disgusted. He found
neither truth nor money. Still, he was not wholly unknown or
unsuccessful. His great abilities were seen and admired; so that when
the people of Milan sent to Symmachus, the prefect of the city, to
procure for them an able teacher of rhetoric, he sent Augustine,--a
providential thing, since in the second capital of Italy he heard the
great Ambrose preach; he found one Christian whom he respected, whom he
admired,--and him he sought. And Ambrose found time to show him an
episcopal kindness. At first Augustine listened as a critic, trying the
eloquence of Ambrose, whether it answered the fame thereof, or flowed
fuller or lower than was reported; "but of the matter I was," says
Augustine, "a scornful and careless looker-on, being delighted with the
sweetness of his discourse. Yet I was, though by little and little,
gradually drawing nearer and nearer to truth; for though I took no pains
to learn _what_ he spoke, only to hear _how_ he spoke, yet, together
with the words which I would choose, came into my mind the things I
would refuse; and while I opened my heart to admire how eloquently he
spoke, I also felt how truly he spoke. And so by degrees I resolved to
abandon forever the Manicheans, whose falsehoods I detested, and
determined to be a catechumen of the Catholic Church."

This was the great crisis of his life. He had renounced a false
philosophy; he sought truth from a Christian bishop; he put himself
under Christian influences. Fortunately at this time his mother Monica,
to whom he had lied and from whom he had run away, joined him; also his
son Adeodatus,--the son of the woman with whom he had lived in illicit
intercourse for fifteen years. But his conversion was not accomplished.
He purposed marriage, sent away his concubine to Africa, and yet fell
again into the mazes of another unlawful and entangling love. It was not
easy to overcome the loose habits of his life. Sensuality ever robs a
man of the power of will. He had a double nature,--a strong sensual
body, with a lofty and inquiring soul. And awful were his conflicts, not
with an unfettered imagination, like Jerome in the wilderness, but with
positive sin. The evil that he would not, that he did, followed with
remorse and shame; still a slave to his senses, and perhaps to his
imagination, for though he had broken away from the materialism of the
Manicheans, he had not abandoned philosophy. He read the books of Plato,
which had a good effect, since he saw, what he had not seen before, that
true realities are purely intellectual, and that God, who occupies the
summit of the world of intelligence, is a pure spirit, inaccessible to
the senses; so that Platonism to him, in an important sense, was the
vestibule of Christianity. Platonism, the loftiest development of pagan
thought, however, did not emancipate him. He comprehended the Logos of
the Athenian sage; but he did not comprehend the Word made flesh, the
Word attached to the Cross. The mystery of the Incarnation offended his
pride of reason.

At length light beamed in upon him from another source, whose simplicity
he had despised. He read Saint Paul. No longer did the apostle's style
seem barbarous, as it did to Cardinal Bembo,--it was a fountain of life.
He was taught two things he had not read in the books of the
Platonists,--the lost state of man, and the need of divine grace. The
Incarnation appeared in a new light. Jesus Christ was revealed to him as
the restorer of fallen humanity.

He was now "rationally convinced." He accepted the theology of Saint
Paul; but he could not break away from his sins. And yet the awful
truths he accepted filled him with anguish, and produced dreadful
conflicts. The law of his members warred against the law of his mind. In
agonies he cried, "Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from
this body of death?" He shunned all intercourse. He withdrew to his
garden, reclined under a fig-tree, and gave vent to bitter tears. He
wrestled with the angel, and his deliverance was at hand. It was under
the fig-tree of his garden that he fancied he heard a voice of boy or
girl, he could not tell, chanting and often repeating, "Take up and
read; take up and read." He opened the Scriptures, and his eye alighted
not on the text which had converted Antony the monk, "Go and sell all
that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in
heaven," but on this: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in
rioting, drunkenness, and wantonness, but put ye on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and not make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts
thereof." That text decided him, and broke his fetters. His conversion
was accomplished. He poured forth his soul in thanksgiving and praise.

He was now in the thirty-second year of his age, and resolved to
renounce his profession,--or, to use his language, "to withdraw from the
marts of lip-labor and the selling of words,"--and enter the service of
the new master who had called him to prepare himself for a higher
vocation. He retired to a country house, near Milan, which belonged to
his friend Veracundus, and he was accompanied in his retreat by his
mother, his brother Navigius, his son Adeodatus, Alypius his confidant,
Trigentius and Licentius his scholars, and his cousins Lastidianus and
Rusticus. I should like to describe those blissful and enchanting days,
when without asceticism and without fanaticism, surrounded with admiring
friends and relatives, he discoursed on the highest truths which can
elevate the human mind. Amid the rich olive-groves and dark waving
chesnuts which skirted the loveliest of Italian lakes, in sight of both
Alps and Apennines, did this great master of Christian philosophy
prepare himself for his future labors, and forge the weapons with which
he overthrew the high-priests who assailed the integrity of the
Christian faith. The hand of opulent friendship supplied his wants, as
Paula ministered to Jerome in Bethlehem. Often were discussions with his
pupils and friends prolonged into the night and continued until the
morning. Plato and Saint Paul reappeared in the gardens of Como. Thus
three more glorious years were passed in study, in retirement, and in
profitable discourse, without scandal and without vanity. The proud
philosopher was changed into a humble Christian, thirsting for a living
union with God. The Psalms of David, next to the Epistles of Saint Paul,
were his favorite study,--that pure and lofty poetry "which strips away
the curtains of the skies, and approaches boldly but meekly into the
presence of Him who dwells in boundless and inaccessible majesty." In
the year 387, at the age of thirty-three, he received the rite of
baptism from the great archbishop who was so instrumental in his
conversion, and was admitted into the ranks of the visible Church, and
prepared to return to Africa. But before he could embark, his beloved
mother died at Ostia, feeling, with Simeon, that she could now depart in
peace, having seen the salvation of the Lord,--but to the immoderate
grief of Augustine who made no effort to dry his tears. It was not till
the following year that he sailed for Carthage, not long tarrying there,
but retiring to Tagaste, to his paternal estate, where he spent three
years more in study and meditation, giving away all he possessed to
religion and charity, living with his friends in a complete community of
goods. It was there that some of his best works were composed. In the
year 391, on a visit to Hippo, a Numidian seaport, he was forced into
more active duties. Entering the church, the people clamored for his
ordination; and such was his power as a pulpit orator, and so
universally was he revered, that in two years after he became coadjutor
bishop, and his great career began.

As a bishop he won universal admiration. Councils could do nothing
without his presence. Emperors condescended to sue for his advice. He
wrote letters to all parts of Christendom. He was alike saint, oracle,
prelate, and preacher. He labored day and night, living simply, but
without monkish austerity. At table, reading and literary conferences
were preferred to secular conversation. His person was accessible. He
interested himself in everybody's troubles, and visited the forlorn and
miserable. He was indefatigable in reclaiming those who had strayed from
the fold. He won every heart by charity, and captivated every mind with
his eloquence; so that Hippo, a little African town, was no longer
"least among the cities of Judah," since her prelate was consulted from
the extremities of the earth, and his influence went forth throughout
the crumbling Empire, to heal division and establish the faith of the
wavering,--a Father of the Church universal.

Yet it is not as bishop, but as doctor, that he is immortal. It was his
mission to head off the dissensions and heresies of his age, and to
establish the faith of Paul even among the Germanic barbarians. He is
the great theologian of the Church, and his system of divinity not only
was the creed of the Middle Ages, but is still an authority in the
schools, both Catholic and Protestant.

Let us, then, turn to his services as theologian and philosopher. He
wrote over a thousand treatises, and on almost every subject that has
interested the human mind; but his labors were chiefly confined to the
prevailing and more subtle and dangerous errors of his day. Nor was it
by dry dialectics that he refuted these heresies, although the most
logical and acute of men, but by his profound insight into the cardinal
principles of Christianity, which he discoursed upon with the most
extraordinary affluence of thought and language, disdaining all
sophistries and speculations. He went to the very core,--a realist of
the most exalted type, permeated with the spirit of Plato, yet bowing
down to Paul.

We first find him combating the opinions which had originally enthralled
him, and which he understood better than any theologian who ever lived.

But I need not repeat what I have already said of the
Manicheans,--those arrogant and shallow philosophers who made such high
pretension to superior wisdom; men who adored the divinity of mind, and
the inherent evil of matter; men who sought to emancipate the soul,
which in their view needed no regeneration from all the influences of
the body. That this soul, purified by asceticism, might be reunited to
the great spirit of the universe from which it had originally emanated,
was the hopeless aim and dream of these theosophists,--not the control
of passions and appetites, which God commands, but their eradication;
not the worship of a Creator who made the heaven and the earth, but a
vague worship of the creation itself. They little dreamed that it is not
the body (neither good nor evil in itself) which is sinful, but the
perverted mind and soul, the wicked imagination of the heart, out of
which proceeds that which defileth a man, and which can only be
controlled and purified by Divine assistance. Augustine showed that
purity was an inward virtue, not the crucifixion of the body; that its
passions and appetites are made to be subservient to reason and duty;
that the law of temperance is self-restraint; that the soul was not an
emanation or evolution from eternal light, but a distinct creation of
Almighty God, which He has the power to destroy, as well as the body
itself; that nothing in the universe can live without His pleasure; that
His intervention is a logical sequence of His moral government. But his
most withering denunciation of the Manicheans was directed against
their pride of reason, against their darkened understanding, which led
them not only to believe a lie, but to glory in it,--the utter
perverseness of the mind when in rebellion to divine authority, in view
of which it is almost vain to argue, since truth will neither be
admitted nor accepted.

There was another class of Christians who provoked the controversial
genius of Augustine, and these were the Donatists. These men were not
heretics, but bigots. They made the rite of baptism to depend on the
character of the officiating priest; and hence they insisted on
rebaptism, if the priest who had baptized proved unworthy. They seemed
to forget that no clergyman ever baptized from his own authority or
worthiness, but only in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the
Holy Ghost. Nobody knows who baptized Paul, and he felt under certain
circumstances even that he was sent not to baptize, but to preach the
gospel. Lay baptism has always been held valid. Hence, such reformers as
Calvin and Knox did not deem it necessary to rebaptize those who had
been converted from the Roman Catholic faith; and, if I do not mistake,
even Roman Catholics do not insist on rebaptizing Protestants. But the
Donatists so magnified, not the rite, but the form of it, that they lost
the spirit of it, and became seceders, and created a mournful division
in the Church,--a schism which gave rise to bitter animosities. The
churches of Africa were rent by their implacable feuds, and on so small
a matter,--even as the ranks of the reformers under Luther were so soon
divided by the Anabaptists. In proportion to the unimportance of the
shibboleth was tenacity to it,--a mark which has ever characterized
narrow and illiberal minds. It is not because a man accepts a shibboleth
that he is narrow and small, but because he fights for it. As a minute
critic would cast out from the fraternity of scholars him who cannot
tell the difference between _ac_ and _et_, so the Donatist would expel
from the true fold of Christ those who accepted baptism from an unworthy
priest. Augustine at first showed great moderation and patience and
gentleness in dealing with these narrow-minded and fierce sectarians,
who carried their animosity so far as to forbid bread to be baked for
the use of the Catholics in Carthage, when they had the ascendency; but
at last he became indignant, and implored the aid of secular

Augustine's controversy with the Donatists led to two remarkable
tracts,--one on the evil of suppressing heresy by the sword, and the
other on the unity of the Church.

In the first he showed a spirit of toleration beyond his age; and this
is more remarkable because his temper was naturally ardent and fiery.
But he protested in his writings, and before councils, against violence
in forcing religious convictions, and advocated a liberality worthy of
John Locke.

In the second tract he advocated a principle which had a prodigious
influence on the minds of his generation, and greatly contributed to
establish the polity of the Roman Catholic Church. He argued the
necessity of unity in government as well as unity in faith, like Cyprian
before him; and this has endeared him to the Roman Catholic Church, I
apprehend, even more than his glorious defence of the Pauline theology.
There are some who think that all governments arise out of the
circumstances and the necessities of the times, and that there are no
rules laid down in the Bible for any particular form or polity, since a
government which may be adapted to one age or people may not be fitted
for another;--even as a monarchy would not succeed in New England any
more than a democracy in China. But the most powerful sects among
Protestants, as well as among the Catholics themselves, insist on the
divine authority for their several forms of government, and all would
have insisted, at different periods, on producing conformity with their
notions. The high-church Episcopalian and the high-church Presbyterian
equally insist on the divine authority for their respective
institutions. The Catholics simply do the same, when they make Saint
Peter the rock on which the supremacy of their Church is based. In the
time of Augustine there was only one form of the visible Church,--there
were no Protestants; and he naturally wished, like any bishop, to
strengthen and establish its unity,--a government of bishops, of which
the bishop of Rome was the acknowledged head. But he did not
anticipate--and I believe he would not have indorsed--their future
encroachments and their ambitious schemes for enthralling the mind of
the world, to say nothing of personal aggrandizement and the usurpation
of temporal authority. And yet the central power they established on the
banks of the Tiber was, with all its corruptions, fitted to conserve the
interests of Christendom in rude ages of barbarism and ignorance; and
possibly Augustine, with his profound intuitions, and in view of the
approaching desolations of the Christian world, wished to give to the
clergy and to their head all the moral power and prestige possible, to
awe and control the barbaric chieftains, for in his day the Empire was
crumbling to pieces, and the old civilization was being trampled under
foot. If there was a man in the whole Empire capable of taking
comprehensive views of the necessities of society, that man was the
Bishop of Hippo; so that if we do not agree with his views of church
government, let us bear in mind the age in which he lived, and its
peculiar dangers and necessities. And let us also remember that his idea
of the unity of the Church has a spiritual as well as a temporal
meaning, and in that sublime and lofty sense can never be controverted
so long as _One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism_ remain the common creed of
Christians in all parts of the world. It was to preserve this unity that
he entered so zealously into all the great controversies of the age, and
fought heretics as well as schismatics.

The great work which pre-eminently called out his genius, and for which
he would seem to have been raised up, was to combat the Pelagian heresy,
and establish the doctrine of the necessity of Divine Grace,--even as it
was the mission of Athanasius to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and
that of Luther to establish Justification by Faith. In all ages there
are certain heresies, or errors, which have spread so dangerously, and
been embraced so generally by the leading and fashionable classes, that
they seem to require some extraordinary genius to arise in order to
combat them successfully, and rescue the Church from the snares of a
false philosophy. Thus Bernard was raised up to refute the rationalism
and nominalism of Abélard, whose brilliant and subtile inquiries had a
tendency to extinguish faith in the world, and bring all mysteries to
the test of reason. The enthusiastic and inquiring young men who flocked
to his lectures from all parts of Europe carried back to their homes and
convents and schools insidious errors, all the more dangerous because
they were mixed with truths which were universally recognized. It
required such a man as Bernard to expose these sophistries and destroy
their power, not so much by dialectical weapons as by appealing to those
lofty truths, those profound convictions, those essential and immutable
principles which consciousness reveals and divine authority confirms. It
took a greater than Abélard to show the tendency of his speculations,
from the logical sequence of which even he himself would have fled, and
which he did reject when misfortunes had broken his heart, and disease
had brought him to face the realities of the future life. So God raised
up Pascal to expose the sophistries of the Jesuits and unravel that
subtle casuistry which was undermining the morality of the age, and
destroying the authority of Saint Augustine on some of the most vital
principles which entered into the creed of the Catholic Church. Thus
Jonathan Edwards, the ablest theologian which this country has seen,
controverted the fashionable Arminianism of his day. Thus some great
intellectual giant will certainly and in due time appear to demolish
with scathing irony the theories and speculations of some of the
progressive schools of our day, and present their absurdities and
boastings and pretensions in such a ridiculous light that no man with
any intellectual dignity will dare to belong to their fraternity, unless
he impiously accepts--sometimes with ribald mockeries--the logical
sequence of their doctrines.

Now it was not the Manicheans or Donatists who were the most dangerous
people in the time of Augustine,--nor were their doctrines likely to be
embraced by the Christian schools, especially in the West; but it was
the Pelagians who in high places were assailing the Pauline theology.
And they advocated principles which lay at the root of most of the
subsequent controversies of the Church. They were intellectual men,
generally good men, who could not be put down, and who would thrive
under any opposition. Augustine did not attack the character of these
men, but rendered a great service to the Church by pointing out, clearly
and luminously, the antichristian character of their theories, when
rigorously pushed out, by a remorseless logic, to their
necessary sequence.

Whatever value may be attached to that science which is based on
deductions drawn from the truths of revelation, certain it is that it
was theology which most interested Christians in the time of Augustine,
as in the time of Athanasius; and his controversy with the Pelagians
made then a mighty stir, and is at the root of half the theological
discussions from that age to ours. If we would understand the changes of
human thought in the Middle Ages, if we would seek to know what is most
vital in Church history, that celebrated Pelagian controversy claims our
special attention.

It was at a great crisis in the Church when a British monk of
extraordinary talents, persuasive eloquence, and great attainments,--a
man accustomed to the use of dialectical weapons and experienced by
extensive travels, ambitious, ardent, plausible, adroit,--appeared among
the churches and advanced a new philosophy. His name was Pelagius; and
he was accompanied by a man of still greater logical power than he
himself possessed, though not so eloquent or accomplished or pleasing in
manner, who was called Celestius,--two doctors of whom the schools were
justly proud, and who were admired and honored by enthusiastic young
men, as Abélard was in after-times.

Nothing disagreeable marked these apostles of the new philosophy, nor
could the malignant voice of theological hatred and envy bring upon
their lives either scandal or reproach. They had none of the infirmities
which so often have dimmed the lustre of great benefactors. They were
not dogmatic like Luther, nor severe like Calvin, nor intolerant like
Knox. Pelagius, especially, was a most interesting man, though more of a
philosopher than a Christian. Like Zeno, he exalted the human will; like
Aristotle, he subjected all truth to the test of logical formularies;
like Abélard, he would believe nothing which he could not explain or
comprehend. Self-confident, like Servetus, he disdained the Cross. The
central principle of his teachings was man's ability to practise any
virtue, independently of divine grace. He made perfection a thing easy
to be attained. There was no need, in his eyes, as his adversaries
maintained, of supernatural aid in the work of salvation. Hence a
Saviour was needless. By faith, he is represented to mean mere
intellectual convictions, to be reached through the reason alone. Prayer
was useful simply to stimulate a man's own will. He was further
represented as repudiating miracles as contrary to reason, of abhorring
divine sovereignty as fatal to the exercise of the will, of denying
special providences as opposing the operation of natural laws, as
rejecting native depravity and maintaining that the natural tendency of
society was to rise in both virtue and knowledge, and of course
rejecting the idea of a Devil tempting man to sin. "His doctrines," says
one of his biographers, "were pleasing to pride, by flattering its
pretension; to nature, by exaggerating its power; and to reason, by
extolling its capacity." He asserted that death was not the penalty of
Adam's transgression; he denied the consequences of his sin; and he
denied the spiritual resurrection of man by the death of Christ, thus
rejecting him as a divine Redeemer. Why should there be a divine
redemption if man could save himself? He blotted out Christ from the
book of life by representing him merely as a martyr suffering for the
declaration of truths which were not appreciated,--like Socrates at
Athens, or Savonarola at Florence. In support of all these doctrines,
so different from those of Paul, he appealed, not to the apostle's
authority, but to human reason, and sought the aid of Pagan philosophy,
rather than the Scriptures, to arrive at truth.

Thus was Pelagius represented by his opponents, who may have exaggerated
his heresies, and have pushed his doctrines to a logical sequence which
he would not accept but would even repel, in the same manner as the
Pelagians drew deductions from the teachings of Augustine which were
exceedingly unfair,--making God the author of sin, and election to
salvation to depend on the foreseen conduct of men in regard to an
obedience which they had no power to perform.

But whether Pelagius did or did not hold all the doctrines of which he
was accused, it is certain that the spirit of them was antagonistic to
the teachings of Paul, as understood by Augustine, who felt that the
very foundations of Christianity were assailed,--as Athanasius regarded
the doctrines of Arius. So he came to the rescue, not of the Catholic
Church, for Pelagius belonged to it as well as he, but to the rescue of
Christian theology. The doctrines of Pelagius were becoming fashionable
and prevalent in many parts of the Empire. Even the Pope at one time
favored them. They might spread until they should be embraced by the
whole Catholic world, for Augustine believed in the vitality of error as
well as in the vitality of truth,--of the natural and inevitable
tendency of society towards Paganism, without the especial and
restraining grace of God. He armed himself for the great conflict with
the infidelity of his day, not with David's sling, but Goliath's sword.
He used the same weapons as his antagonist, even the arms of reason and
knowledge, and constructed an argument which was overwhelming, if Paul's
Epistles were to be the accepted premises of his irresistible logic.
Great as was Pelagius, Augustine was a far greater man,--broader,
deeper, more learned, more logical, more eloquent, more intense. He was
raised up to demolish, with the very reason he professed to disdain, the
sophistries and dogmas of one of the most dangerous enemies which the
Church had ever known,--to leave to posterity his logic and his
conclusions when similar enemies of his faith should rise up in future
ages. He furnished a thesaurus not merely to Bernard and Thomas Aquinas,
but even to Calvin and Bossuet and Pascal. And it will be the marvellous
lucidity of the Bishop of Hippo which shall bring back to the true
faith, if it is ever brought back, that part of the Roman Catholic
Church which accepts the verdict of the Council of Trent, when that
famous council indorsed the opinions of Pelagius while upholding the
authority of Augustine as the greatest doctor of the Church.

To a man like Augustine, with his deep experiences,--a man rescued from
a seductive philosophy and a corrupt life, as he thought, by the
special grace of God and in answer to his mother's prayers,--the views
of Pelagius were both false and dangerous. He could find no words
sufficiently intense whereby to express his gratitude for his
deliverance from both sin and error. To him this Deliverer is so
personal, so loving, that he pours out his confession to Him as if He
were both friend and father. And he felt that all that is vital in
theology must radiate from the recognition of His sovereign power in the
renovation and salvation of the world. All his experiences and
observations of life confirmed the authority of Scripture,--that the
world, as a matter of fact, was sunk in a state of sin and misery, and
could be rescued only by that divine power which converted Paul. His
views of predestination, grace, and Providence all radiate from the
central principle of the majesty of God and the littleness of man. All
his ideas of the servitude of the will are confirmed by his personal
experience of the awful fetters which sin imposes, and the impossibility
of breaking away from them without direct aid from the God who ruleth
the world in love. And he had an infinitely greater and deeper
conviction of the reality of this divine love, which had rescued him,
than Pelagius had, who felt that his salvation was the result of his own
merits. The views of Augustine were infinitely more cheerful than those
of his adversary respecting salvation, since they gave more hope to the
miserable population of the Empire who could not claim the virtues of
Pelagius, and were impotent of themselves to break away from the bondage
which degraded them. There is nothing in the writings of Augustine,--not
in this controversy, or any other controversy,--to show that God
delights in the miseries or the penalty which are indissolubly connected
with sin; on the contrary, he blesses and adores the divine hand which
releases men from the constraints which sin imposes. This divine
interposition is wholly based on a divine and infinite love. It is the
helping hand of Omnipotence to the weak will of man,--the weak will even
of Paul, when he exclaimed, "The evil that I would not, that I do." It
is the unloosing, by His loving assistance, of the wings by which the
emancipated soul would rise to the lofty regions of peace and

I know very well that the doctrines which Augustine systematized from
Paul involve questions which we cannot answer; for why should not an
infinite and omnipotent God give to all men the saving grace that he
gave to Augustine? Why should not this loving and compassionate Father
break all the fetters of sin everywhere, and restore the primeval
Paradise in this wicked world where Satan seems to reign? Is He not more
powerful than devils? Alas! the prevalence of evil is more mysterious
than the origin of evil. But this is something,--and it is well for the
critic and opponent of the Augustinian theology to bear this in
mind,--that Augustine was an earnest seeker after truth, even when
enslaved by the fornications of Carthage; and his own free-will in
persistently seeking truth, through all the mazes of Manichean and
Grecian speculation, is as manifest as the divine grace which came to
his assistance. God Almighty does not break fetters until there is some
desire in men to have them broken. If men _will_ hug sins, they must not
complain of their bondage. Augustine recognized free-will, which so many
think he ignored, when his soul aspired to a higher life. When a
drunkard in his agonies cries out to God, then help is near. A drowning
man who calls for a rope when a rope is near stands a good chance of
being rescued.

I need not detail the results of this famous controversy. Augustine,
appealing to the consciousness of mankind as well as to the testimony of
Paul, prevailed over Pelagius, who appealed to the pride of reason. In
those dreadful times there were more men who felt the need of divine
grace than there were philosophers who revelled in the speculations of
the Greeks. The danger from the Pelagians was not from their
organization as a sect, but their opinions as individual men. Probably
there were all shades of opinion among them, from a modest and
thoughtful semi-Pelagianism to the rankest infidelity. There always have
been, and probably ever will be, sceptical and rationalistic people,
even in the bosom of the Church.

Now had it not been for Augustine,--a profound thinker, a man of
boundless influence and authority,--it is not unlikely that Pelagianism
would have taken so deep a root in the mind of Christendom, especially
in the hearts of princes and nobles, that it would have become the creed
of the Church. Even as it was, it was never fully eradicated in the
schools and in the courts and among worldly people of culture
and fashion.

But the fame of Augustine does not rest on his controversies with
heretics and schismatics alone. He wrote treatises on almost all
subjects of vital interest to the Church. His essay on the Trinity was
worthy of Athanasius, and has never been surpassed in lucidity and
power. His soliloquies on a blissful life, and the order of the
universe, and the immortality of the soul are pregnant with the richest
thought, equal to the best treatises of Cicero or Boethius. His
commentary on the Psalms is sparkling with tender effusions, in which
every thought is a sentiment and every sentiment is a blazing flame of
piety and love. Perhaps his greatest work was the amusement of his
leisure hours for thirteen years,--a philosophical treatise called "The
City of God," in which he raises and replies to all the great questions
of his day; a sort of Christian poem upon our origin and end, and a
final answer to Pagan theogonies,--a final sentence on all the gods of
antiquity. In that marvellous book he soars above his ordinary
excellence, and develops the designs of God in the history of States and
empires, furnishing for Bossuet the groundwork of his universal history.
Its great excellence, however, is its triumphant defence of Christianity
over all other religions,--the last of the great apologies which, while
settling the faith of the Christian world, demolished forever the last
stronghold of a defeated Paganism. As "ancient Egypt pronounced
judgments on her departed kings before proceeding to their burial, so
Augustine interrogates the gods of antiquity, shows their impotence to
sustain the people who worshipped them, triumphantly sings their
departed greatness, and seals with his powerful hand the sepulchre into
which they were consigned forever."

Besides all the treatises of Augustine,--exegetical, apologetical,
dogmatical, polemical, ascetic, and autobiographical,--three hundred and
sixty-three of his sermons have come down to us, and numerous letters to
the great men and women of his time. Perhaps he wrote too much and too
loosely, without sufficient regard to art,--like Varro, the most
voluminous writer of antiquity, and to whose writings Augustine was much
indebted. If Saint Augustine had written less, and with more care, his
writings would now be more read and more valued. Thucydides compressed
the labors of his literary life into a single volume; but that volume
is immortal, is a classic, is a text-book. Yet no work of man is
probably more lasting than the "Confessions" of Augustine, from the
extraordinary affluence and subtilty of his thoughts, and his burning,
fervid, passionate style. When books were scarce and dear, his various
works were the food of the Middle Ages: and what better books ever
nourished the European mind in a long period of ignorance and ignominy?
So that we cannot overrate his influence in giving a direction to
Christian thought. He lived in the writings of the sainted doctors of
the Scholastic schools. And he was a very favored man in living to a
good old age, wearing the harness of a Christian laborer and the armor
of a Christian warrior until he was seventy-six. He was a bishop nearly
forty years. For forty years he was the oracle of the Church, the light
of doctors. His social and private life had also great charms: he lived
the doctrines that he preached; he completely triumphed over the
temptations which once assailed him. Everybody loved as well as revered
him, so genial was his humanity, so broad his charity. He was affable,
courteous, accessible, full of sympathy and kindness. He was tolerant of
human infirmities in an age of angry controversy and ascetic rigors. He
lived simply, but was exceedingly hospitable. He cared nothing for
money, and gave away what he had. He knew the luxury of charity, having
no superfluities. He was forgiving as well as tolerant; saying, It is
necessary to pardon offences, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
No one could remember an idle word from his lips after his conversion.
His humility was as marked as his charity, ascribing all his triumphs to
divine assistance. He was not a monk, but gave rules to monastic orders.
He might have been a metropolitan patriarch or pope; but he was
contented with being bishop of a little Numidian town. His only visits
beyond the sanctuary were to the poor and miserable. As he won every
heart by love, so he subdued every mind by eloquence. He died leaving no
testament, because he had no property to bequeath but his immortal
writings,--some ten hundred and thirty distinct productions. He died in
the year 430, when his city was besieged by the Vandals, and in the arms
of his faithful Alypius, then a neighboring bishop, full of visions of
the ineffable beauty of that blissful state to which his renovated
spirit had been for forty years constantly soaring.

"Thus ceased to flow," said a contemporary, "that river of eloquence
which had watered the thirsty fields of the Church; thus passed away the
glory of preachers, the master of doctors, and the light of scholars;
thus fell the courageous combatant who with the sword of truth had given
heresy a mortal blow; thus set this glorious sun of Christian doctrine,
leaving a world in darkness and in tears."

His vacant see had no successor. "The African province, the cherished
jewel of the Roman Empire, sparkled for a while in the Vandal diadem.
The Greek supplanted the Vandal, and the Saracen supplanted the Greek,
and the home of Augustine was blotted out from the map of Christendom."
The light of the gospel was totally extinguished in Northern Africa. The
acts of Rome and the doctrines of Cyprian were equally forgotten by the
Mahommedan conquerors. Only in Bona, as Hippo is now called, has the
memory of the great bishop been cherished,--the one solitary flower
which escaped the successive desolations of Vandals and Saracens. And
when Algiers was conquered by the French in 1830, the sacred relics of
the saint were transferred from Pavia (where they had been deposited by
the order of Charlemagne), in a coffin of lead, enclosed in a coffin of
silver, and the whole secured in a sarcophagus of marble, and finally
committed to the earth near the scenes which had witnessed his
transcendent labors. I do not know whether any monument of marble and
granite was erected to his memory; but he needs no chiselled stone, no
storied urn, no marble bust, to perpetuate his fame. For nearly fifteen
hundred years he has reigned as the great oracle of the Church, Catholic
and Protestant, in matters of doctrine,--the precursor of Bernard, of
Leibnitz, of Calvin, of Bossuet, all of whom reproduced his ideas, and
acknowledged him as the fountain of their own greatness. "Whether," said
one of the late martyred archbishops of Paris, "he reveals to us the
foundations of an impure polytheism, so varied in its developments, yet
so uniform in its elemental principles; or whether he sports with the
most difficult problems of philosophy, and throws out thoughts which in
after times are sufficient to give an immortality to Descartes,--we
always find in this great doctor all that human genius, enlightened by
the Spirit of God, can explain, and also to what a sublime height reason
herself may soar when allied with faith."


The voluminous Works of Saint Augustine, especially his "Confessions."
Mabillon, Tillemont, and Baronius have written very fully of this great
Father. See also Vaughan's Life of Thomas Aquinas. Neander, Geisler,
Mosheim, and Milman indorse, in the main, the eulogium of Catholic
writers. There are numerous popular biographies, of which those of
Baillie and Schaff are among the best; but the most satisfactory book I
have read is the History of M. Poujoulat, in three volumes, issued at
Paris in 1846. Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, has an extended
biography. Even Gibbon pays a high tribute to his genius and character.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 346-395.


The last of those Roman emperors whom we call great was Theodosius.
After him there is no great historic name, unless it be Justinian, who
reigned when Rome had fallen. With Theodosius is associated the
life-and-death struggle of Rome with the Gothic barbarians, and the
final collapse of Paganism as a tolerated religion. Paganism in its
essence, its spirit, was not extinguished; it entered into new forms,
even into the Church itself; and it still exists in Christian countries.
When Bismarck was asked why he did not throw down his burdens, he is
reported to have said: "Because no man can take my place. I should like
to retire to my estates and raise cabbages; but I have work to do
against Paganism: I live among Pagans." Neither Theodosius nor Bismarck
was what we should call a saint. Both have been stained by acts which it
is hard to distinguish from crimes; but both have given evidence of
hatred of certain evils which undermine society. Theodosius,
especially, made war and fought nobly against the two things which most
imperilled the Empire,--the barbarians who had begun their ravages, and
the Paganism which existed both in and outside the Church. For which
reasons he has been praised by most historians, in spite of great crimes
and some vices. The worldly Gibbon admires him for the noble stand he
took against external dangers, and the Fathers of the Church almost
adored him for his zealous efforts in behalf of orthodoxy. An eminent
scholar of the advanced school has seen nothing in him to admire, and
much to blame. But he was undoubtedly a very great man, and rendered
important services to his age and to civilization, although he could not
arrest the fatal disease which even then had destroyed the vitality of
the Empire. It was already doomed when he ascended the throne. No mortal
genius, no imperial power, could have saved the crumbling Empire.

In my lecture on Marcus Aurelius I alluded to the external prosperity
and internal weakness of the old Roman world during his reign. That
outward prosperity continued for a century after he was dead,--that is,
there were peace, thrift, art, wealth, and splendor. Men were unmolested
in the pursuit of pleasure. There were no great wars with enemies beyond
the limits of the Empire. There were wars of course; but these chiefly
were civil wars between rival aspirants for imperial power, or to
suppress rebellions, which did not alarm the people. They still sat
under their own vines and fig-trees, and danced to voluptuous music, and
rejoiced in the glory of their palaces. They feasted and married and
were given in marriage, like the antediluvians. They never dreamed that
a great catastrophe was near, that great calamities were impending.

I do not say that the people in that century were happy or contented, or
even generally prosperous. How could they be happy or prosperous when
monsters and tyrants sat on the throne of Augustus and Trajan? How could
they be contented when there was such a vast inequality of
condition,--when slaves were more numerous than freemen,--when most of
the women were guarded and oppressed,--when scarcely a man felt secure
of the virtue of his wife, or a wife of the fidelity of her
husband,--when there was no relief from corroding sorrows but in the
sports of the amphitheatre and circus, or some form of demoralizing
excitement or public spectacle,--when the great mass were ground down by
poverty and insult, and the few who were rich and favored were satiated
with pleasure, ennuéd, and broken down by dissipation,--when there was
no hope in this world or in the next, no true consolation in sickness or
in misfortune, except among the Christians, who fled by thousands to
desert places to escape the contaminating vices of society?

But if the people were not happy or fortunate as a general thing, they
anticipated no overwhelming calamities; the outward signs of prosperity
remained,--all the glories of art, all the wonders of imperial and
senatorial magnificence; the people were fed and amused at the expense
of the State; the colosseum was still daily crowded with its
eighty-seven thousand spectators, and large hogs were still roasted
whole at senatorial banquets, and wines were still drunk which had been
stored one hundred years. The "dark-skinned daughters of Isis" still
sported unmolested in wanton mien with the priests of Cybele in their
discordant cries. The streets still were filled with the worshippers of
Bacchus and Venus, with barbaric captives and their Teuton priests, with
chariots and horses, with richly apparelled young men, and fashionable
ladies in quest of new perfumes. The various places of amusement were
still thronged with giddy youth and gouty old men who would have felt
insulted had any one told them that the most precious thing they had was
the most neglected. Everywhere, as in the time of Trajan, were
unrestricted pleasures and unrestricted trades. What cared the
shopkeepers and the carpenters and the bakers whether a Commodus or a
Severus reigned? They were safe. It was only great nobles who were in
danger of being robbed or killed by grasping emperors. The people, on
the whole, lived for one hundred years after the accession of Commodus
as they did under Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. True, there had been great
calamities during this hundred years. There had been terrible plagues
and pestilences: in some of these as many as five thousand people died
daily in Rome alone. There were tumults and revolts; there were wars and
massacres; there was often the reign of monsters or idiots. Yet even as
late as the reign of Aurelian, ninety years after the death of Aurelius,
the Empire was thought to be eternal; nor was any triumph ever
celebrated with greater pride and magnificence than his. And as the
victorious emperor in his triumphal chariot marched along the Via Sacra
up the Capitoline hill, with the spoils and trophies of one hundred
battles, with ambassadors and captives, including Zenobia herself,
fainting with the weight of jewels and golden fetters, it would seem
that Rome was destined to overcome all the vicissitudes of Nature, and
reign as mistress of the world forever.

But that century did not close until real dangers stared the people in
the face, and so alarmed the guardians of the Empire that they no longer
could retire to their secluded villas for luxurious leisure, but were
forced to perpetual warfare, and with foes they had hitherto despised.

Two things marked the one hundred years before the accession of
Theodosius of especial historical importance,--the successful inroads
of barbarians carrying desolation and alarm to the very heart of the
Empire; and the wonderful spread of the Christian religion. Persecution
ended with Diocletian; and under Constantine Christianity seated herself
upon his throne. During this century of barbaric spoliations and public
miseries,--the desolation of provinces, the sack of cities, the ruin of
works of art, the burning of palaces, all the unnumbered evils which
universal war created,--the converts to Christianity increased, for
Christianity alone held out hope amid despair and ruin. The public
dangers were so great that only successful generals were allowed to wear
the imperial purple.

The ablest men of the Empire were at last summoned to govern it. From
the year 268 to 394 most of the emperors were able men, and some were
great and virtuous. Perhaps the Empire was never more ably administered
than was the Roman in the day of its calamities. Aurelian, Diocletian,
Constantine, Theodosius, are alike immortal. They all alike fought with
the same enemies, and contended with the same evils. The enemies were
the Gothic barbarians; the evils were the degeneracy and vices of Roman
soldiers, which universal corruption had at last produced. It was a sad
hour in the old capital of the world when its blinded inhabitants were
aroused from the stupendous delusion that they were invincible; when the
crushing fact blazed upon them that the legions had been beaten, that
province after province had been overrun, that the proudest cities had
fallen, that the barbarians were advancing,--everywhere
advancing,--treading beneath their feet temples, palaces, statues,
libraries, priceless works of art; that there was no shelter to which
they could fly; that Rome herself was doomed. In the year 378 the
Emperor Valens himself was slain, almost under the walls of his capital,
with two-thirds of his army,--some sixty thousand infantry and six
thousand cavalry,--while the victorious Goths, gorged with spoils,
advanced to take possession of the defeated and crumbling Empire. From
the shores of the Bosporus to the Julian Alps nothing was seen but
conflagration, murders, and depredations, and the cry of anguish went up
to heaven in accents of almost universal despair.

In such a crisis a great man was imperatively needed, and a great man
arose. The dismayed emperor cast his eyes over the whole extent of his
dominions to find a deliverer. And he found the needed hero living
quietly and in modest retirement on a farm in Spain. This man was
Theodosius the Great, a young man then,--as modest as David amid the
pastures, as unambitious as Cincinnatus at the plough. "The vulgar,"
says Gibbon, "gazed with admiration on the manly beauty of his face and
the graceful majesty of his person, while in the qualities of his mind
and heart intelligent observers perceived the blended excellences of
Trajan and Constantine." As prudent as Fabius, as persevering as Alfred,
as comprehensive as Charlemagne, as full of resources as Frederic II.,
no more fitting person could be found to wield the sceptre of Trajan his
ancestor. No greater man than he did the Empire then contain, and
Gratian was wise and fortunate in associating with himself so
illustrious a man in the imperial dignity.

If Theodosius was unassuming, he was not obscure and unimportant. His
father had been a successful general in Britain and Africa, and he
himself had been instructed by his father in the art of war, and had
served under him with distinction. As Duke of Maesia he had vanquished
an army of Sarmatians, saved the province, deserved the love of his
soldiers, and provoked the envy of the court. But his father having
incurred the jealousy of Gratian and been unjustly executed, he was
allowed to retire to his patrimonial estates near Valladolid, where he
gave himself up to rural enjoyments and ennobling studies. He was not
long permitted to remain in this retirement; for the public dangers
demanded the service of the ablest general in the Empire, and there was
no one so illustrious as he. And how lofty must have been his character,
if Gratian dared to associate with himself in the government of the
Empire a man whose father he had unjustly executed! He was thirty-three
when he was invested with imperial purple and intrusted with the conduct
of the Gothic war.

The Goths, who under Fritigern had defeated the Roman army before the
walls of Adrianople, were Germanic barbarians who lived between the
Rhine and the Vistula in those forests which now form the empire of
Germany. They belonged to a family of nations which had the same natural
characteristics,--love of independence, passion for war, veneration for
women, and religious tendency of mind. They were brave, persevering,
bold, hardy, and virtuous, for barbarians. They cast their eyes on the
Roman provinces in the time of Marius, and were defeated by him under
the name of Teutons. They had recovered strength when Caesar conquered
the Gauls. They were very formidable in the time of Marcus Aurelius, and
had formed a general union for the invasion of the Roman world. But a
barrier had been made against their incursions by those good and warlike
emperors who preceded Commodus, so that the Romans had peace for one
hundred years. These barbarians went under different names, which I will
not enumerate,--different tribes of the same Germanic family, whose
remote ancestors lived in Central Asia and were kindred to the Medes and
Persians. Like the early inhabitants of Greece and Italy, they were of
the Aryan race. All the members of this great family, in their early
history, had the same virtues and vices. They worshipped the forces of
Nature, recognizing behind these a supreme and superintending deity,
whose wrath they sought to deprecate by sacrifices. They set a great
value on personal independence, and hence had great individuality of
character. They delighted in the pleasures of the chase. They were
generally temperate and chaste. They were superstitious, social, and
quarrelsome, bent on conquest, and migrated from country to country with
a view of improving their fortunes.

The Goths were the first of these barbarians who signally triumphed over
the Roman arms. "Starting from their home in the Scandinavian peninsula,
they pressed upon the Slavic population of the Vistula, and by rapid
conquests established themselves in southern and eastern Germany. Here
they divided. The Visi or West Goths advanced to the Danube." In the
reign of Decius (249-251) they crossed the river and ravaged the Roman
territory. In 269 they imposed a tribute on the Emperor Gratian, and
seem to have been settled in Dacia. After this they made several
successful raids,--invading Bythinia, entering the Propontis, and
advancing as far as Athens and Corinth, even to the coasts of Asia
Minor; destroying in their ravages the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, with
its one hundred and twenty-seven marble columns.

These calamities happened in the middle of the third century, during the
reign of the frivolous Gallienus, who received the news with his
accustomed indifference. While the Goths were burning the Grecian
cities, this royal cook and gardener was soliciting a place in the
Areopagus of Athens.

In the reign of Claudius the barbarians united under the Gothic
standard, and in six thousand vessels prepared again to ravage the
world. Against three hundred and twenty thousand of these Goths Claudius
advanced, and defeated them at Naissus in Dalmatia. Fifty thousand were
slain, and three Gothic women fell to the share of every soldier. On the
return of spring nothing of that mighty host was seen. Aurelian--who
succeeded Claudius, and whose father had been a peasant of Sirmium--put
an end to the Gothic war, and the Empire again breathed; but only for a
time, for the barbarians continually advanced, although they were
continually beaten by the warlike emperors who succeeded Gallienus. In
the middle of the third century they were firmly settled in Dacia, by
permission of Valerian. One hundred years after, pressed by Huns, they
asked for lands south of the Danube, which request was granted by
Valens; but they were rudely treated by the Roman officials, especially
their women, and treachery was added to their other wrongs. Filled with
indignation, they made a combination and swept everything before
them,--plundering cities, and sparing neither age nor sex. These ravages
continued for a year. Valens, aroused, advanced against them, and was
slain in the memorable battle on the plains of Adrianople, 9th of
August, 378,--the most disastrous since the battle of Cannae, and from
which the Empire never recovered.

To save the crumbling world, Theodosius was now made associate emperor.
And in that great crisis prudence was more necessary than valor. No
Roman army at that time could contend openly in the field, face to face,
with the conquering hordes who assembled under the standard of
Fritigern,--the first historic name among the Visigoths. Theodosius
"fixed his headquarters at Thessalonica, from whence he could watch the
irregular actions of the barbarians and direct the movements of his
lieutenants." He strengthened his defences and fortifications, from
which his soldiers made frequent sallies,--as Alfred did against the
Danes,--and accustomed themselves to the warfare of their most dangerous
enemies. He pursued the same policy that Fabius did after the battle of
Cannae, to whose wisdom the Romans perhaps were more indebted for their
ultimate success than to the brilliant exploits of Scipio. The death of
Fritigern, the great predecessor of Alaric, relieved Theodosius from
many anxieties; for it was followed by the dissension and discord of the
barbarians themselves, by improvidence and disorderly movements; and
when the Goths were once more united under Athanaric, Theodosius
succeeded in making an honorable treaty with him, and in entertaining
him with princely hospitalities in his capital, whose glories alike
astonished and bewildered him. Temperance was not one of the virtues of
Gothic kings under strong temptation, and Athanaric, yielding to the
force of banquets and imperial seductions, soon after died. The politic
emperor gave his late guest a magnificent funeral, and erected to his
memory a stately monument; which won the favor of the Goths, and for a
time converted them to allies. In four years the entire capitulation of
the Visigoths was effected.

Theodosius then turned his attention to the Ostro or East Goths, who
advanced, with other barbarians, to the banks of the lower Danube, on
the Thracian frontier. Allured to cross the river in the night, the
barbarians found a triple line of Roman war-vessels chained to each
other in the middle of the river, which offered an effectual resistance
to their six thousand canoes, and they perished with their king.

Having gradually vanquished the most dangerous enemies of the Empire,
Theodosius has been censured for allowing them to settle in the
provinces they had desolated, and still more for incorporating fifty
thousand of their warriors in the imperial armies, since they were
secret enemies, and would burst through their limits whenever an
opportunity offered. But they were really too formidable to be driven
back beyond the frontiers of the crumbling Empire. Theodosius could only
procure a period of peace; and this was not to be secured save by adroit
flatteries. The day was past for the extermination of the Goths by Roman
soldiers, who had already thrown away their defensive armor; nor was it
possible that they would amalgamate with the people of the Empire, as
the Celtic barbarians had done in Spain and Gaul after the victories of
Caesar. Though the kingly power was taken away from them and they fought
bravely under the imperial standards, it was evident from their
insolence and their contempt of the effeminate masters that the day was
not distant when they would be the conquerors of the Empire. It does not
speak well for an empire that it is held together by the virtues and
abilities of a single man. Nor could the fate of the Roman empire be
doubtful when barbarians were allowed to settle in its provinces; for
after the death of Valens the Goths never abandoned the Roman territory.
They took possession of Thrace, as Saxons and Danes took possession
of England.

After the conciliation of the Goths,--for we cannot call it the
conquest,--Theodosius was obliged to turn his attention to the affairs
of the Western Empire; for he ruled only the Eastern provinces. It would
seem that Gratian, who had called him to his assistance to preserve the
East from the barbarians, was now in trouble in the West. He had not
fulfilled the great expectation that had been formed of him. He degraded
himself in the eyes of the Romans by his absorbing passion for the
pleasures of the chase; while public affairs imperatively demanded his
attention. He received a body of Alans into the military and domestic
service of the palace. He was indolent and pleasure-seeking, but was
awakened from his inglorious sports by a revolt in Britain. Maximus, a
native of Spain and governor of the island, had been proclaimed emperor
by his soldiers. He invaded Gaul with a large fleet and army, followed
by the youth of Britain, and was received with acclamations by the
armies of that province. Gratian, then residing in Paris, fled to Lyons,
deserted by his troops, and was assassinated by the orders of Maximus.
The usurper was now acknowledged by the Western provinces as emperor,
and was too powerful to be resisted at that time by Theodosius, who
accepted his ambassadors, and made a treaty with the usurper by which he
was permitted to reign over Britain, Gaul, and Spain, provided that the
other Western provinces, including Wales, should accept and acknowledge
Valentinian, the brother of the murdered Gratian, who was however a
mere boy, and was ruled by his mother Justina, an Arian,--that
celebrated woman who quarrelled with Ambrose, archbishop of Milan.
Valentinian was even more feeble than Gratian, and Maximus, not
contented with the sovereignty of the three most important provinces of
the Empire, resolved to reign over the entire West. Theodosius, who had
dissembled his anger and waited for opportunity, now advanced to the
relief of Valentinian, who had been obliged to fly from Milan,--the seat
of his power. But in two months Theodosius subdued his rival, who fled
to Italy, only, however, to be dragged from the throne and executed.

Having terminated the civil war, and after a short residence in Milan,
Theodosius made his triumphal entry into the ancient capital of the
world. He was now the absolute and undisputed master of the East and the
West, as Constantine had been, whom he resembled in his military genius
and executive ability; but he gave to Valentinian (a youth of twenty,
murdered a few months after) the provinces of Italy and Illyria, and
intrusted Gaul to the care of Arbogastes,--a gallant soldier among the
Franks, who, like Maximus, aspired to reign. But power was dearer to the
valiant Frank than a name; and he made his creature, the rhetorician
Eugenius, the nominal emperor of the West. Hence another civil war; but
this more serious than the last, and for which Theodosius was obliged
to make two years' preparation. The contest was desperate. Victory at
one time seemed even to be on the side of Arbogastes: Theodosius was
obliged to retire to the hills on the confines of Italy, apparently
subdued, when, in the utmost extremity of danger, a desertion of troops
from the army of the triumphant barbarian again gave him the advantage,
and the bloody and desperate battle on the banks of the Frigidus
re-established Theodosius as the supreme ruler of the world. Both
Arbogastes and Eugenius were slain, and the East and West were once more
and for the last time united. The division of the Empire under
Diocletian had not proved a wise policy, but was perhaps necessary;
since only a Hercules could have borne the burdens of undivided
sovereignty in an age of turbulence, treason, revolts, and anarchies. It
was probably much easier for Tiberius or Trajan to rule the whole world
than for one of the later emperors to rule a province. Alfred had a
harder task than Charlemagne, and Queen Elizabeth than Queen Victoria.

I have dwelt very briefly on those contests in which the great
Theodosius was obliged to fight for his crown and for the Empire. For a
time he had delivered the citizens from the fear of the Goths, and had
re-established the imperial sovereignty over the various provinces. But
only for a time. The external dangers reappeared at his death. He only
averted impending ruin; he only propped up a crumbling Empire. No human
genius could have long prevented the fall. Hence his struggles with
barbarians and with rebels have no deep interest to us. We associate
with his reign something more important than these outward conflicts.
Civilization at large owes him a great debt for labors in another field,
for which he is most truly immortal,--for which his name is treasured by
the Church,--for which he was one of the great benefactors.

These labors were directed to the improvement of jurisprudence, and the
final extinction of Paganism as a tolerated religion. He gave to the
Church and to Christianity a new prestige. He rooted out, so far as
genius and authority can, those heresies which were rapidly assimilating
the new religion to the old. He was the friend and patron of those great
ecclesiastics whose names are consecrated. The great Ambrose was his
special friend, in whose arms he expired. Augustine, Martin of Tours,
Jerome, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Chrysostom, Damasus, were all
contemporaries, or nearly so. In his day the Church was really seated on
the high-places of the earth. A bishop was a greater man than a senator;
he exercised more influence and had more dignity than a general. He was
ambassador, courtier, and statesman, as well as prelate. Theodosius
handed over to the Church the government of mankind. To him we date
that ecclesiastical government which was perfected by Charlemagne, and
which was dominant in the Middle Ages. Anarchy and misery spread over
the world; but the new barbaric forces were obedient to the officers of
the Church. The Church looms up in the days of Theodosius as the great
power of the world.

Theodosius is lauded as a Christian prince even more than Constantine,
and as much as Alfred. He was what is called orthodox, and intensely so.
He saw in Arianism a heresy fatal to the Church. "It is our pleasure,"
said he, "that all nations should steadfastly adhere to the religion
which was taught by Saint Peter to the Romans, which is _the sole Deity
of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost_, under an equal majesty; and we
authorize the followers of this doctrine to assume the title of Catholic
Christians." If Rome under Damasus and the teachings of Jerome was the
seat of orthodoxy, Constantinople was the headquarters of Arianism. We
in our times have no conception of the interest which all classes took
in the metaphysics of theology. Said one of the writers of the day: "If
you desire a man to change a piece of silver, he informs you wherein the
Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf, you are
told in reply that the Son is inferior to the Father; if you inquire
whether the bath is ready, the answer is that the Son was made out of
nothing." The subtle questions pertaining to the Trinity were the theme
of universal conversation, even amid the calamities of the times.

Theodosius, as soon as he had finished his campaign against the Goths,
summoned the Arian archbishop of Constantinople, and demanded his
subscription to the Nicene Creed or his resignation. It must be
remembered that the Arians were in an overwhelming majority in the city,
and occupied the principal churches. They complained of the injustice of
removing their metropolitan, but the emperor was inflexible; and Gregory
Nazianzen, the friend of Basil, was promoted to the vacant See, in the
midst of popular grief and rage. Six weeks afterwards Theodosius
expelled from all the churches of his dominions, both of bishops and of
presbyters, those who would not subscribe to the Nicene Creed. It was a
great reformation, but effected without bloodshed.

Moreover, in the year 381 he assembled a general council of one hundred
and fifty bishops at his capital, to finish the work of the Council of
Nice, and in which Arianism was condemned. In the space of fifteen years
seven imperial edicts were fulminated against those who maintained that
the Son was inferior to the Father. A fine equal to two thousand dollars
was imposed on every person who should receive or promote an Arian
ordination. The Arians were forbidden to assemble together in their
churches, and by a sort of civil excommunication they were branded with
infamy by the magistrates, and rendered incapable of civil offices of
trust and emolument. Capital punishment even was inflicted on

So it would appear that Theodosius inaugurated religious persecution for
honest opinions, and his edicts were similar in spirit to those of Louis
XIV. against the Protestants,--a great flaw in his character, but for
which he is lauded by the Catholic historians. The eloquent Fléchier
enlarges enthusiastically on the virtues of his private life, on his
chastity, his temperance, his friendship, his magnanimity, as well as
his zeal in extinguishing heresy. But for him, Arianism might possibly
have been the established religion of the Empire, since not only the
dialectical Greeks, but the sensuous Goths, inclined to that creed.
Ulfilas, in his conversion of those barbarians, had made them the
supporters of Arianism, not because _they_ understood the subtile
distinctions which theologians had made, but because it was the accepted
and fashionable faith of Constantinople. Spain, however, through the
commanding influence of Hosius, adhered to the doctrines of Athanasius,
while the eloquence of the commanding intellects of the age was put
forth in behalf of Trinitarianism. The great leader of Arianism had
passed away when Augustine dictated to the Christian world from the
little town of Hippo, and Jerome transplanted the monasticism of the
East into the West. At Tours Martin defended the same cause that
Augustine had espoused in Africa; while at Milan, the court capital of
the West, the venerable Ambrose confirmed Italy in the Latin creed. In
Alexandria the fierce Theophilus suppressed Arianism with the same
weapons that he had used in extirpating the worship of Isis and Osiris.
Chrysostom at Antioch was the equally strenuous advocate of the
Athanasian Creed. We are struck with the appearance of these commanding
intellects in the last days of the Empire,--not statesmen and generals,
but ecclesiastics and churchmen, generally agreed in the interpretation
of the faith as declared by Paul, and through whose counsels the emperor
was unquestionably governed. In all matters of religion Theodosius was
simply the instrument of the great prelates of the age,--the only great
men that the age produced.

After Theodosius had thus established the Nicene faith, so far as
imperial authority, in conjunction with that of the great prelates,
could do so, he closed the final contest with Paganism itself. His laws
against Pagan sacrifices were severe. It was death to inspect the
entrails of victims for sacrifice; and all other sacrifices, in the year
392, were made a capital offence. He even demolished the Pagan temples,
as the Scots destroyed the abbeys and convents which were the great
monuments of Mediaeval piety. The revenues of the temples were
confiscated. Among the great works of ancient art which were destroyed,
but might have been left or converted into Christian use, were the
magnificent temple of Edessa and the serapis of Alexandria, uniting the
colossal grandeur of Egyptian with the graceful harmony of Grecian art.
At Rome not only was the property of the temples confiscated, but also
all privileges of the priesthood. The Vestal virgins passed unhonored in
the streets. Whoever permitted any Pagan rite--even the hanging of a
chaplet on a tree--forfeited his estate. The temples of Rome were not
destroyed, as in Syria and Egypt; but as all their revenues were
confiscated, public worship declined before the superior pomps of a
sensuous and even idolatrous Christianity. The Theodosian code,
published by Theodosius the Younger, A.D. 438, while it incorporated
Christian usages and laws in the legislation of the Empire, did not,
however, disturb the relation of master and slave; and when the Empire
fell, slavery still continued as it was in the times of Augustus and
Diocletian. Nor did Christianity elevate imperial despotism into a wise
and beneficent rule. It did not change perceptibly the habits of the
aristocracy. The most vivid picture we have of the vices of the leading
classes of Roman society are painted by a contemporaneous Pagan
historian,--Ammianus Marcellinus,--and many a Christian matron adorned
herself with the false and colored hair, the ornaments, the rouge, and
the silks of the Pagan women of the time of Cleopatra. Never was luxury
more enervating, or magnificence more gorgeous, but without refinement,
than in the generation that preceded the fall of Rome. And coexistent
with the vices which prepared the way for the conquests of the
barbarians was the wealth of the Christian clergy, who vied with the
expiring Paganism in the splendor of their churches, in the ornaments of
their altars, and in the imposing ceremonial of their worship. The
bishop became a great worldly potentate, and the strictest union was
formed between the Church and State. The greatest beneficent change
which the Church effected was in relation to divorce,--the facility for
which disgraced the old Pagan civilization; but Christianity invested
marriage with the utmost solemnity, so that it became a holy and
indissoluble sacrament,--to which the Catholic Church, in the days of
deepest degeneracy has ever clung, leaving to the Protestants the
restoration of this old Pagan custom of divorce, as well as the
encouragement and laudation of a material civilization.

The spirit of Paganism never has been exorcised in any age of Christian
progress and triumph, but has appeared from time to time in new forms.
In the conquering Church of Constantine and Theodosius it adopted Pagan
emblems and gorgeous rites and ceremonies; in the Middle Ages it
appeared in the dialectical contests of the Greek philosophers; in our
times in the deification of the reason, in the apotheosis of art, in the
inordinate value placed on the enjoyments of the body, and in the
splendor of an outside life. Names are nothing. To-day we are swinging
to the Epicurean side of the Greeks and Romans as completely as they did
in the age of Commodus and Aurelian; and none may dare to hurl their
indignant protests without meeting a neglect and obloquy sometimes more
hard to bear than the persecutions of Nero, of Trajan, of Leo X., of
Louis XIV.

If Theodosius were considered aside from his able administration of the
Empire and his patronage of the orthodox leaders of the Church, he would
be subject to severe criticism. He was indolent, irascible, and severe.
His name and memory are stained by a great crime,--the slaughter of from
seven to fifteen thousand of the people of Thessalonica,--one of the
great crimes of history, but memorable for his repentance more than for
his cruelty. Had Theodosius not submitted to excommunication and
penance, and given every sign of grief and penitence for this terrible
deed, he would have passed down in history as one of the cruellest of
all the emperors, from Nero downwards; for nothing can excuse, or even
palliate, so gigantic a crime, which shocked the whole civilized
world,--a crime more inexcusable than the slaughter of Saint Bartholomew
or the massacre which followed the revocation of the edict of Nantes.

Theodosius survived that massacre about five years, and died at Milan,
395, at the age of fifty, from a disease which was caused by the
fatigues of war, which, with a constitution undermined by
self-indulgence, he was unable to bear. But whatever the cause of his
death it was universally lamented, not from love of him so much as from
the sense of public dangers which he alone had the power to ward off. At
his death his Empire was divided between his two feeble sons,--Honorius
and Arcadius, and the general ruin which everybody began to fear soon
took place. After Theodosius, no great and warlike sovereign reigned
over the crumbling and dismembered Empire, and the ruin was as rapid as
it was mournful.

The Goths, released from the restraints and fears which Theodosius
imposed, renewed their ravages; and the effeminate soldiers of the
Empire, who formerly had marched with a burden of eighty pounds, now
threw away the heavy weapons of their ancestors, even their defensive
armor, and of course made but feeble resistance. The barbarians advanced
from conquering to conquer. Alaric, leader of the Goths, invaded Greece
at the head of a numerous army. Degenerate soldiers guarded the pass
where three hundred Spartan heroes had once arrested the Persian hosts,
and fled as Alaric approached. Even at Thermopylae no resistance was
made. The country was laid waste with fire and sword. Athens purchased
her preservation at an enormous ransom. Corinth, Argos, and Sparta
yielded without a blow, but did not escape the doom of vanquished
cities. Their palaces were burned, their families were enslaved, and
their works of art were destroyed.

Only one general remained to the desponding Arcadius,--Stilicho, trained
in the armies of Theodosius, who had virtually intrusted to him,
although by birth a Vandal, the guardianship of his children. We see in
these latter days of the Empire that the best generals were of barbaric
birth,--an impressive commentary on the degeneracy of the legions. At
the approach of Stilicho, Alaric retired at first, but collecting a
force of ten thousand men penetrated the Julian Alps, and advanced into
Italy. The Emperor Honorius was obliged to summon to his rescue his
dispirited legions from every quarter, even from the fortresses of the
Rhine and the Caledonian wall, with which Stilicho compelled Alaric to
retire, but only on a subsidy of two tons of gold. The Roman people,
supposing that they were delivered, returned to their circuses and
gladiatorial shows. Yet Italy was only temporarily delivered, for
Stilicho,--the hero of Pollentia,--with the collected forces of the
whole western Empire, might still have defied the armies of the Goths
and staved off the ruin another generation, had not imperial jealousy
and the voice of envy removed him from command. The supreme guardian of
the western Empire, in the greatest crisis of its history, himself
removes the last hope of Rome. The frivolous senate which Stilicho had
saved, and the weak and timid emperor whom he guarded, were alike
demented. _Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat_. In an evil hour the
brave general was assassinated.

The Gothic king observing the revolutions at the palace, the elevation
of incompetent generals, and the general security in which the people
indulged, resolved to march to a renewed attack. Again he crossed the
Alps, with a still greater army, and invaded Italy, destroying
everything in his path. Without obstruction he crossed the Apennines,
ravaged the fertile plains of Umbria, and reached the city, which for
four hundred years had not been violated by the presence of a foreign
enemy. The walls were then twenty-five miles in circuit, and contained
so large a population that it affected indifference. Alaric made no
attempt to take the city by storm, but quietly and patiently enclosed it
with a cordon through which nothing could force its way,--as the
Prussians in our day invested Paris. The city, unprovided for a siege,
soon felt all the evils of famine, to which pestilence was naturally
added. In despair, the haughty citizens condescended to sue for a
ransom. Alaric fixed the price of his retreat at the surrender of all
the gold and silver, all the precious movables, and all the slaves of
barbaric birth. He afterwards somewhat modified his demands, but marched
away with more spoil than the Romans brought from Carthage and Antioch.

Honorius intrenched himself at Ravenna, and refused to treat with the
magnanimous Alaric. Again, consequently, he marched against the doomed
capital; again invested it; again cut off supplies. In vain did the
nobles organize a defence,--there were no defenders. Slaves would not
fight, and a degenerate rabble could not resist a warlike and superior
race. Cowardice and treachery opened the gates. In the dead of night the
Gothic trumpets rang unanswered in the streets. The old heroic virtues
were gone. No resistance was made. Nobody fought from temples and
palaces. The queen of the world, for five days and nights, was exposed
to the lust and cupidity of despised barbarians. Yet a general slaughter
was not made; and as much wealth as could be collected into the churches
of St. Peter and St. Paul was spared. The superstitious barbarians in
some degree respected churches. But the spoils of the city were immense
and incalculable,--gold, jewels, vestments, statues, vases, silver
plate, precious furniture, spoils of Oriental cities,--the collective
treasures of the world,--all were piled upon the Gothic wagons. The
sons and daughters of patrician families became, in their turn, slaves
to the barbarians. Fugitives thronged the shores of Syria and Egypt,
begging daily bread. The Roman world was filled with grief and
consternation. Its proud capital was sacked, since no one would defend
it. "The Empire fell," says Guizot, "because no one belonged to it." The
news of the capture "made the tongue of old Saint Jerome to cling to the
roof of his mouth in his cell at Bethlehem. What is now to be seen,"
cried he, "but conflagration, slaughter, ruin,--the universal shipwreck
of society?" The same words of despair came from Saint Augustine at
Hippo. Both had seen the city in the height of its material grandeur,
and now it was laid low and desolate. The end of all things seemed to be
at hand; and the only consolation of the great churchmen of the age was
the belief in the second coming of our Lord.

The sack of Rome by Alaric, A.D. 410, was followed in less than half a
century by a second capture and a second spoliation at the hands of the
Vandals, with Genseric at their head,--a tribe of barbarians of kindred
Germanic race, but fiercer instincts and more hideous peculiarities.
This time, the inhabitants of Rome (for Alaric had not destroyed
it,--only robbed it) put on no airs of indifference or defiance. They
knew their weakness. They begged for mercy.

The last hope of the city was her Christian bishop; and the great Leo,
who was to Rome what Augustine had been to Carthage when that capital
also fell into the hands of Vandals, hastened to the barbarian's camp.
The only concession he could get was that the lives of the people should
be spared,--a promise only partially kept. The second pillage lasted
fourteen days and nights. The Vandals transferred to their ships all
that the Goths had left, even to the trophies of the churches and
ancient temples; the statues which ornamented the capital, the holy
vessels of the Jewish temple which Titus had brought from Jerusalem,
imperial sideboards of massive silver, the jewels of senatorial
families, with their wives and daughters,--all were carried away to
Carthage, the seat of the new Empire of the Vandals, A.D. 455, then once
more a flourishing city. The haughty capital met the fate which she had
inflicted on her rival in the days of Cato the censor, but fell still
more ingloriously, and never would have recovered from this second fall
had not her immortal bishop, rising with the greatness of the crisis,
laid the foundation of a new power,--that spiritual domination which
controlled the Gothic nations for more than a thousand years.

With the fall of Rome,--yet too great a city to be wholly despoiled or
ruined, and which has remained even to this day the centre of what is
most interesting in the world,--I should close this Lecture; but I must
glance rapidly over the whole Empire, and show its condition when the
imperial capital was spoiled, humiliated, and deserted.

The Suevi, Alans, and Vandals invaded Spain, and erected their barbaric
monarchies. The Goths were established in the south of Gaul, while the
north was occupied by the Franks and Burgundians. England, abandoned by
the Romans, was invaded by the Saxons, who formed permanent conquests.
In Italy there were Goths and Heruli and Lombards. All these races were
Germanic. They probably made serfs or slaves of the old population, or
were incorporated with them. They became the new rulers of the
devastated provinces; and all became, sooner or later, converts to a
nominal Christianity, the supreme guardian of which was the Pope, whose
authority they all recognized. The languages which sprang up in Europe
were a blending of the Roman, Celtic, and Germanic. In Spain and Italy
the Latin predominated, as the Saxon prevailed in England after the
Norman conquest. Of all the new settlers in the Roman world, the
Normans, who made no great incursions till the time of Charlemagne, were
probably the strongest and most refined. But they all alike had the same
national traits, substantially; and they entered upon the possessions of
the Romans after various contests, more or less successful, for two
hundred and fifty years.

The Empire might have been invaded by these barbarians in the time of
the Antonines, and perhaps earlier; but it would not have succumbed to
them. The Legions were then severely disciplined, the central power was
established, and the seeds of ruin had not then brought forth their
wretched fruits. But in the fifth century nothing could have saved the
Empire. Its decline had been rapid for two hundred years, until at last
it became as weak as the Oriental monarchies which Alexander subdued. It
fell like a decayed and rotten tree. As a political State all vitality
had fled from it. The only remaining conservative forces came from
Christianity; and Christianity was itself corrupted, and had become a
part of the institutions of the State.

It is mournful to think that a brilliant external civilization was so
feeble to arrest both decay and ruin. It is sad to think that neither
art nor literature nor law had conservative strength; that the manners
and habits of the people grew worse and worse, as is universally
admitted, amid all the glories and triumphs and boastings of the
proudest works of man. "A world as fair and as glorious as our own,"
says Sismondi, "was permitted to perish." Rome, Alexandria, Antioch,
Athens, met the old fate of Babylon, of Tyre, of Carthage. Degeneracy
was as marked and rapid in the former, notwithstanding all the
civilizing influences of letters, jurisprudence, arts, and utilitarian
science, as in the latter nations,--a most significant and impressive
commentary on the uniform destinies of nations, when those virtues on
which the strength of man is based have passed away. An observer in the
days of Theodosius would very likely have seen the churches of Rome as
fully attended as are those in New York itself to-day; and he would have
seen a more magnificent city,--and yet it fell. There is no cure for a
corrupt and rotten civilization. As the farms of the old Puritans of
Massachusetts and Connecticut are gradually but surely passing into the
hands of the Irish, because the sons and grandsons of the old
New-England farmer prefer the uncertainties and excitements of a
demoralized city-life to laborious and honest work, so the possessions
of the Romans passed into the hands of German barbarians, who were
strong and healthy and religious. They desolated, but they

The punishment of the enervated and sensual Roman was by war. We in
America do not fear this calamity, and have no present cause of fear,
because we have not sunk to the weakness and wickedness of the Romans,
and because we have no powerful external enemies. But if amid our
magnificent triumphs of science and art, we should accept the
Epicureanism of the ancients and fall into their ways of life, then
there would be the same decline which marked them,--I mean in virtue and
public morality,--and there would be the same penalty; not perhaps
destruction from external enemies, as in Persia, Syria, Greece, and
Rome, but some grievous and unexpected series of catastrophes which
would be as mournful, as humiliating, as ruinous, as were the incursions
of the Germanic races. The operations of law, natural and moral, are
uniform. No individual and no nation can escape its penalty. The world
will not be destroyed; Christianity will not prove a failure,--but new
forces will arise over the old, and prevail. Great changes will come. He
whose right it is to rule will overturn and overturn: but "creation
shall succeed destruction; melodious birth-songs will come from the
fires of the burning phoenix," assuring us that the progress of the race
is certain, even if nations are doomed to a decline and fall whenever
conservative forces are not strong enough to resist the torrent of
selfishness, vanity, and sin.


The original authorities are Ammianus Marcellinus, Zosimus, Sozomen,
Socrates, orations of Gregory Nazianzen, Theodoret, the Theodosian Code,
Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin of Tours, Life of Ambrose by Paulinus,
Augustine's "De Civitate Dei," Epistles of Ambrose; also those of
Jerome; Claudien. The best modern authorities are Tillemont's History of
the Emperors; Gibbon's Decline and Fall; Milmans's History of
Christianity; Neander; Sheppard's Fall of Rome; and Flécier's Life of
Theodosius. There are several popular Lives of Theodosius in French, but
very few in English.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 390-461.


With the great man who forms the subject of this Lecture are identified
those principles which lay at the foundation of the Roman Catholic power
for fifteen hundred years. I do not say that he is the founder of the
Roman Catholic Church, for that is another question. Roman Catholicism,
as a polity, or government, or institution, is one thing; and Roman
Catholicism, as a religion, is quite another, although they have been
often confounded. As a government, or polity, it is peculiar,--the
result of the experience of ages, adapted to society and nations in a
certain state of progress or development, with evils and corruptions, of
course, like all other human institutions. As a religion, although it
superadded many dogmas and rites which Protestants do not accept, and
for which they can see no divine authority,--like auricular confession,
the deification of the Virgin, indulgences for sin, and the
infallibility of the Pope,--still, it has at the same time defended the
cardinal principles of Christian faith and morality; such as the
personality and sovereignty of God, the divinity of Christ, salvation in
consequence of his sufferings and death, immortality, the final
judgment, the necessity of a holy life, temperance, humility, patience,
and the virtues which were taught upon the Mount and enforced by the
original disciples and apostles, whose writings are accepted
as inspired.

In treating so important a subject as that represented by Leo the Great,
we must bear in mind these distinctions. While Leo is conceded to have
been a devout Christian and a noble defender of the faith as we receive
it,--one of the lights of the early Christian Church, numbered even
among the Fathers of the Church, with Augustine and Chrysostom,--his
special claim to greatness is that to him we trace some of the first
great developments of the Roman Catholic power as an institution. More
than any other one man, he laid the foundation-stone of that edifice
which alike sheltered and imprisoned the European nations for more than
a thousand years. He was not a great theologian like Augustine, or
preacher like Chrysostom, but he was a great bishop like Ambrose,--even
far greater, inasmuch as he was the organizer of new forces in the
administration of his important diocese. In fact he was a great
statesman, as the more able of the popes always aspired to be. He was
the associate and equal of princes.

It was the sublime effort of Leo to make the Church the guardian of
spiritual principles and give to it a theocratic character and aim,
which links his name with the mightiest moral movements of the world;
and when I speak of the Church I mean the Church of Rome, as presided
over by men who claimed to be the successors of Saint Peter,--to whom
they assert Christ had given the supreme control over all other churches
as His vicars on the earth. It was the great object of Leo to
substantiate this claim, and root it in the minds of the newly converted
barbarians; and then institute laws and measures which should make his
authority and that of his successors paramount in all spiritual matters,
thus centring in his See the general oversight of the Christian Church
in all the countries of Europe. It was a theocratic aspiration, one of
the grandest that ever entered into the mind of a man of genius, yet, as
Protestants now look at it, a usurpation,--the beginning of a vast
system of spiritual tyranny in order to control the minds and
consciences of men. It took several centuries to develop this system,
after Leo was dead. With him it was not a vulgar greed of power, but an
inspiration of genius,--a grand idea to make the Church which he
controlled a benign and potent influence on society, and to prevent
civilization from being utterly crushed out by the victorious Goths and
Vandals. It is the success of this idea which stamps the Church as the
great leading power of Mediaeval Ages,--a power alike majestic and
venerable, benignant yet despotic, humble yet arrogant and usurping.

But before I can present this subtile contradiction, in all its mighty
consequences both for good and evil, I must allude to the Roman See and
the condition of society when Leo began his memorable pontificate as the
precursor of the Gregories and the Clements of later times. Like all
great powers, it was very gradually developed. It was as long in
reaching its culminating greatness as that temporal empire which
controlled the ancient world. Pagan Rome extended her sway by generals
and armies; Mediaeval Rome, by her prelates and her principles.

However humble the origin of the Church of Rome, in the early part of
the fifth century it was doubtless the greatest See (or _seat_ of
episcopal power) in Christendom. The Bishop of Rome had the largest
number of dependent bishops, and was the first of clerical dignitaries.
As early as A.D. 250,--sixty years before Constantine's conversion, and
during the times of persecution,--such a man as Cyprian, metropolitan
Bishop of Carthage, yielded to him the precedence, and possibly the
presidency, because his See was the world's metropolis. And when the
seat of empire was removed to the banks of the Bosporus, the power of
the Roman Bishop, instead of being diminished, was rather increased,
since he was more independent of the emperors than was the Bishop of
Constantinople. And especially after Rome was taken by the Goths, he
alone possessed the attributes of sovereignty. "He had already towered
as far above ordinary bishops in magnificence and prestige as Caesar had
above Fabricius."

It was the great name of ROME, after all, which was the mysterious
talisman that elevated the Bishop of Rome above other metropolitans. Who
can estimate the moral power of that glorious name which had awed the
world for a thousand years? Even to barbarians that proud capital was
sacred. The whole world believed her to be eternal; she alone had the
prestige of universal dominion. This queen of cities might be desolated
like Babylon or Tyre, but her influence was indestructible. In her very
ruins she was majestic. Her laws, her literature, and her language still
were the pride of nations; they revered her as the mother of
civilization, clung to the remembrance of her glories, and refused to
let her die. She was to the barbarians what Athens had been to the
Romans, what modern Paris is to the world of fashion, what London ever
will be to the people of America and Australia,--the centre of a proud
civilization. So the bishops of such a city were great in spite of
themselves, no matter whether they were remarkable as individuals or
not. They were the occupants of a great office; and while their city
ruled the world, it was not necessary for them to put forth any new
claims to dignity or power. No person and no city disputed their
pre-eminence. They lived in a marble palace; they were clothed in purple
and fine linen; they were surrounded by sycophants; nobles and generals
waited in their ante-chambers; they were the companions of princes; they
controlled enormous revenues; they were the successors of the high
pontiffs of imperial domination.

Yet for three hundred years few of them were eminent. It is not the
order of Providence that great posts, to which men are elected by
inferiors, should be filled with great men. Such are always feared, and
have numerous enemies who defeat their elevation. Moreover, it is only
in crises of imminent danger that signal abilities are demanded. Men are
preferred for exalted stations who will do no harm, who have talent
rather than genius,--men who have business capacities, who have industry
and modesty and agreeable manners; who, if noted for anything, are noted
for their character. Hence we do not read of more than two or three
bishops, for three hundred years, who stood out pre-eminently among
their contemporaries; and these were inferior to Origen, who was a
teacher in a theological school, and to Jerome, who was a monk in an
obscure village. Even Augustine, to whose authority in theology the
Catholic Church still professes to bow down, as the schools of the
Middle Ages did to Aristotle, was the bishop of an unimportant See in
Northern Africa. Only Clement in the first century, and Innocent in the
fourth loomed up above their contemporaries. As for the rest, great as
was their dignity as bishops, it is absurd to attribute to them schemes
for enthralling the world. No such plans arose in the bosom of any of
them. Even Leo I. merely prepared the way for universal domination; he
had no such deep-laid schemes as Gregory VII. or Boniface VIII. The
primacy of the Bishop of Rome was all that was conceded by other bishops
for four hundred years, and this on the ground of the grandeur of his
capital. Even this was disputed by the Bishop of Constantinople, and
continued to be until that capital was taken by the Turks.

But with the waning power, glory, and wealth of Rome,--decimated,
pillaged, trodden under foot by Goths and Vandals, rebuked by
Providence, deserted by emperors, abandoned to decay and ruin,--some
expedient or new claim to precedency was demanded to prevent the Roman
bishops from sinking into mediocrity. It was at this crisis that the
pontificate of Leo began, in the year 440. It was a gloomy period, not
only for Rome, but for civilization. The queen of cities had been
repeatedly sacked, and her treasures destroyed or removed to distant
cities. Her proud citizens had been sold as slaves; her noble matrons
had been violated; her grand palaces had been levelled with the ground;
her august senators were fugitives and exiles. All kinds of calamities
overspread the earth and decimated the race,--war, pestilence, and
famine. Men in despair hid themselves in caves and monasteries.
Literature and art were crushed; no great works of genius appeared. The
paralysis of despair deadened all the energies of civilized man. Even
armies lost their vigor, and citizens refused to enlist. The old
mechanism of the Caesars, which had kept the Empire together for three
hundred years after all vitality had fled, was worn out. The general
demoralization had led to a general destruction. Vice was succeeded by
universal violence; and that, by universal ruin. Old laws and restraints
were no longer of any account. A civilization based on material forces
and Pagan arts had proved a failure. The whole world appeared to be on
the eve of dissolution. To the thoughtful men of the age everything
seemed to be involved in one terrific mass of desolation and horror.
"Even Jerome," says a great historian, "heaped together the awful
passages of the Old Testament on the capture of Jerusalem and other
Eastern cities; and the noble lines of Virgil on the sack of Troy are
but feeble descriptions of the night which covered the western Empire."

Now Leo was the man for such a crisis, and seems to have been raised up
to devise some new principle of conservation around which the stricken
world might rally. "He stood equally alone and superior," says Milman,
"in the Christian world. All that survived of Rome--of her unbounded
ambition, of her inflexible will, and of her belief in her title to
universal dominion--seemed concentrated in him alone."

Leo was born, in the latter part of the fourth century, at Rome, of
noble parents, and was intensely Roman in all his aspirations. He early
gave indications of future greatness, and was consecrated to a service
in which only talent was appreciated. When he was nothing but an
acolyte, whose duty it was to light the lamps and attend on the bishop,
he was sent to Africa and honored with the confidence of the great
Bishop of Hippo. And he was only deacon when he was sent by the Emperor
Valentinian III. to heal the division between Aëtius and Albinus,--rival
generals, whose dissensions compromised the safety of the Empire. He was
absent on important missions when the death of Sixtus, A.D. 440, left
the Papacy without a head. On Leo were all eyes now fixed, and he was
immediately summoned by the clergy and the people of Rome, in whom the
right of election was vested, to take possession of the vacant throne.
He did not affect unworthiness like Gregory in later years, but accepted
at once the immense responsibility.

I need not enumerate his measures and acts. Like all great and patriotic
statesmen he selected the wisest and ablest men he could find as
subordinates, and condescended himself to those details which he
inexorably exacted from others. He even mounted the neglected pulpit of
his metropolitan church to preach to the people, like Chrysostom and
Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople. His sermons are not models of
eloquence or style, but are practical, powerful, earnest, and orthodox.
Athanasius himself was not more evangelical, or Ambrose more impressive.
He was the especial foe of all the heresies which characterized the age.
He did battle with all who attempted to subvert the Nicene Creed. Those
whom he especially rebuked were the Manicheans,--men who made the
greatest pretension to intellectual culture and advanced knowledge, and
yet whose lives were disgraced not merely by the most offensive
intellectual pride, but the most disgraceful vices; men who confounded
all the principles of moral obligation, and who polluted even the
atmosphere of Rome by downright Pagan licentiousness. He had no patience
with these false philosophers, and he had no mercy. He even complained
of them to the emperor, as Calvin did of Servetus to the civil
authorities of Geneva (which I grant was not to his credit); and the
result was that these dissolute and pretentious heretics were expelled
from the army and from all places of trust and emolument.

Many people in our enlightened times would denounce this treatment as
illiberal and persecuting, and justly. But consider his age and
circumstances. What was Leo to do as the guardian of the faith in those
dreadful times? Was he to suffer those who poisoned all the sources of
renovation which then remained to go unrebuked and unpunished? He may
have said, in his defence, "Shall I, the bishop of this diocese, the
appointed guardian of faith and morals in a period of alarming
degeneracy,--shall I, armed with the sword of Saint Peter, stop to draw
the line between injuries inflicted by the tongue and injuries inflicted
by the hand? Shall we defend our persons, our property, and our lives,
and take no notice of those who impiously and deliberately would destroy
our souls by their envenomed blasphemies? Shall we allow the wells of
water which spring up to everlasting life to be poisoned by the impious
atheists and scoffers, who in every age set themselves up against Christ
and His kingdom, and are only allowed by God Almighty to live, as the
wild beasts of the desert or scorpions and serpents are allowed to live?
Let them live, but let us defend ourselves against their teeth and
fangs. Are the overseers of God's people, in a world of shame, to be
mere philosophical Gallios, indifferent to our higher interests? Is it a
Christian duty to permit an avalanche of evils to overwhelm the Church
on the plea of toleration? Shall we suffer, when we have the power to
prevent it, a pandemonium of scoffers and infidels and sentimental
casuists to run riot in the city which is intrusted to us to guard? Not
thus will we be disloyal to our trusts. Men have souls to save, and we
will come to the rescue with any weapons we can lay our hands upon. The
Church is the only hope of the world, not merely in our unsettled times,
but for all ages. And hence I, as the guardian of those spiritual
principles which lie at the root of all healthy progress in
civilization, and all religious life, will not tamely and ignobly see
those principles subverted by dangerous and infidel speculations, even
if they are attractive to cultivated but irreligious classes."

Such may have been the arguments, it is not unreasonable to
suppose, which influenced the great Leo in his undoubted
persecutions,--persecutions, we should remember, which were then
indorsed by the Catholic Church. They would be condemned in our times by
all enlightened men, but they were the only remedy known in that age
against dangerous opinions. So Leo put down the Manicheans and preserved
the unity of the faith, which was of immeasurable importance in the sea
of anarchies which at that time was submerging all the traditions of
the past.

Leo also distinguished himself by writing a treatise on the
Incarnation,--said to be the ablest which has come down to us from the
primitive Church. He was one of those men who believed in theology as a
series of divine declarations, to be cordially received whether they are
fully grasped by the intellect or not. These declarations pertain to
most momentous interests, and hence transcend in dignity any question
which mere philosophy ever attempted to grasp, or physical science ever
brought forward. In spite of the sneers of the infidels, or the attacks
of _savans_, or the temporary triumph of false opinions, let us remember
they have endured during the mighty conflicts of the last eighteen
hundred years, and will endure through all the conflicts of ages,--the
might, the majesty, and the glory of the kingdom of Christ. Whoever thus
conserves truths so important is a great benefactor, whether neglected
or derided, whether despised or persecuted.

In addition to the labors of Leo to preserve the integrity of the
received faith among the semi-barbaric western nations, his efforts were
equally great to heal the disorders of the Church. He reformed
ecclesiastical discipline in Africa, rent by Arian factions and Donatist
schismatics. He curtailed the abuses of metropolitan tyranny in Gaul. He
sent his legates to preside over the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.
He sat in judgment between Vienna and Arles. He fought for the
independence of the Church against emperors and barbaric chieftains. He
encouraged literature and missions and schools and the spread of the
Bible. He was the paragon of a bishop,--a man of transcendent dignity of
character, as well as a Father of the Church Universal, of whom all
Christendom should be proud.

Among Leo's memorable acts as one of the great lights of his age was the
part he was called upon to perform as a powerful intercessor with
barbaric kings. When Attila with his swarm of Mongol conquerors appeared
in Italy,--the "scourge of God," as he was called; the instrument of
Providence in punishing the degenerate rulers and people of the falling
Empire,--Leo was sent by the affrighted emperor to the barbarian's camp
to make what terms he could. The savage Hun, who feared not the armies
of the emperor, stood awe-struck, we are told, before the minister of
God; and, swayed by his eloquence and personal dignity, consented to
retire from Italy for the hand of the princess Honoria. And when
afterwards Genseric, at the head of his Vandals, became master of the
capital, he was likewise influenced by the powerful intercession of the
bishop, and consented to spare the lives of the Romans, and preserve the
public buildings and churches from conflagration. Genseric could not
yield up the spoil of the fallen capital, and his soldiers transported
to Carthage, the seat of the new Vandal kingdom, the riches and trophies
which illustrious generals had won,--yea, the treasures of three
religions; the gods of the capitoline temple, the golden candlesticks
which Titus brought from Jerusalem, and the sacred vessels which adorned
the churches of the Christians, and which Alaric had spared.

Thus far the intrepid bishop of Rome--for he was nothing more--calls
forth our sympathy and admiration for the hand he had in establishing
the faith and healing the divisions of the Church, for which he earned
the title of Saint. He taught no errors like Origen, and pushed out no
theological doctrines into a jargon of metaphysics like Athanasius. He
was more practical than Jerome, and more moderate than Augustine.

But he instituted a claim, from motives of policy, which subsequently
ripened into an irresistible government, on which the papal structure as
an institution or polity rests. He did not put forth this claim,
however, until the old capital of the Caesars was humiliated,
vanquished, and completely prostrated as a political power. When the
Eternal City was taken a second time, and her riches plundered, and her
proud palaces levelled with the dust; when her amphitheatre was
deserted, her senatorial families were driven away as fugitives and sold
as slaves, and her glory was departed,--nothing left her but
recollections and broken columns and ruined temples and weeping
matrons, ashes, groans, and lamentations, miseries and most bitter
sorrows,--then did her great bishop, intrepid amid general despair, lay
the foundation of a new empire, vaster in its influence, if not in its
power, than that which raised itself up among the nations in the
proudest days of Vespasian and the Antonines.

Leo, from one of the devastated hills of Rome,--once crowned with
palaces, temples, and monuments,--looked out upon the Christian world,
and saw the desolation spoken of by Jeremy the prophet, as well as by
the Cumaean sibyl: all central power hopelessly prostrated; law and
justice by-words; provinces wasted, decimated, and anarchical;
literature and art crushed; vice, in all its hateful deformity, rampant
and multiplying itself; false opinions gaining ground; Christians
adopting the errors of Paganism; soldiers turned into banditti; the
contemplative hiding themselves in caves and deserts; the rich made
slaves; barbarians everywhere triumphant; women shrieking in terror;
bishops praying in despair,--a world disordered, a pandemonium of devils
let loose, one terrific and howling mass of moral and physical
desolation such as had never been seen since Noah entered into the ark.

Amid this dreary wreck of the old civilization, which had been supposed
to be eternal, what were Leo's designs and thoughts? In this mournful
crisis, what did he dream of in his sad and afflicted soul? To flee
into a monastery, as good men in general despair and wretchedness did,
and patiently wait for the coming of his Lord, and for the new
dispensation? Not at all: he contemplated the restoration of the eternal
city,--a new creation which should succeed destruction; the foundation
of a new power which should restore law, preserve literature, subdue the
barbarians, introduce a still higher civilization than that which had
perished,--not by bringing back the Caesars, but by making himself
Caesar; a revived central power which the nations should respect and
obey. That which the world needed was this new central power, to settle
difficulties, depose tyrants, establish a common standard of faith and
worship, encourage struggling genius, and conserve peace. Who but the
Church could do this? The Church was the last hope of the fallen Empire.
The Church should put forth her theocratic aspirations. The keys of
Saint Peter should be more potent than the sceptres of kings. The Church
should not be crushed in the general desolation. She was still the
mighty power of the world. Christianity had taken hold of the hearts and
minds of men, and raised its voice to console and encourage amid
universal despair. Men's thoughts were turned to God and to his
vicegerents. He was mighty to save. His promises were a glorious
consolation. The Church should arise, put on her beautiful garments,
and go on from conquering to conquer. A theocracy should restore
civilization. The world wanted a new Christian sovereign, reigning by
divine right, not by armies, not by force,--by an appeal to the future
fears and hopes of men. Force had failed: it was divided against itself.
Barbaric chieftains defied the emperors and all temporal powers. Rival
generals desolated provinces. The world was plunging into barbarism. The
imperial sceptre was broken. Not a diadem, but a tiara, must be the
emblem of universal sovereignty. Not imperial decrees, but papal bulls,
must now rule the world. Who but the Bishop of Rome could wear this
tiara? Who but he could be the representative of the new theocracy? He
was the bishop of the metropolis whose empire never could pass away. But
his city was in ruins. If his claim to precedency rested on the grandeur
of his capital, he must yield to the Bishop of Constantinople. He must
found a new claim, not on the greatness and antiquity of his capital,
but on the superstitious veneration of the Christian world,--a claim
which would be accepted.

Now it happened that one of Leo's predecessors had instituted such a
claim, which he would revive and enforce with new energy. Innocent had
maintained, forty years before Leo, that the primacy of the Roman See
was derived from Saint Peter,--that Christ had delegated to Peter
supreme power as chief of the apostles; and that he, as the successor
of Saint Peter, was entitled to his jurisdiction and privileges. This is
the famous _jus divinum_ principle which constitutes the corner-stone of
the papal fabric. On this claim was based the subsequent encroachments
of the popes. Leo saw the force of this claim, and adopted it and
intrenched himself behind it, and became forthwith more formidable than
any of his predecessors or any living bishop; and he was sure that so
long as the claim was allowed, no matter whether his city was great or
small, his successors would become the spiritual dictators of
Christendom. The dignity and power of the Roman bishop were now based on
a new foundation. He was still venerable from the souvenirs of the
Empire, but more potent as the successor of the chief of the apostles.
Ambrose had successfully asserted the independent spiritual power of the
bishops; Leo seized that sceptre and claimed it for the Bishop of Rome.

Protestants are surprised and indignant that this haughty and false
claim (as they view it) should have been allowed; it only shows to what
depth of superstition the Christian world had already sunk. What an
insult to the reason and learning of the world! What preposterous
arrogance and assumption! Where are the proofs that Saint Peter was
really the first bishop of Rome, even? And if he were, where are the
Scripture proofs that he had precedency over the other apostles? And
more, where do we learn in the Scriptures that any prerogative could be
transmitted to successors? Where do we find that the successors of Peter
were entitled to jurisdiction over the whole Church? Christ, it is true,
makes use of the expression of a "rock" on which his Church should be
built. But Christ himself is the rock, not a mortal man. "Other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,"--a
truth reiterated even by Saint Augustine, the great and acknowledged
theologian of the Catholic Church, although Augustine's views of sin and
depravity are no more relished by the Roman Catholics of our day than
the doctrines of Luther himself, who drew his theological system, like
Calvin, from Augustine more than from any other man, except Saint Paul.

But arrogant and unfounded as was the claim of Leo,--that Peter, not
Christ, was the rock on which the Church is founded,--it was generally
accepted by the bishops of the day. Everything tended to confirm it,
especially the universal idea of a necessary unity of the Church. There
must be a head of the Church on earth, and who could be lawfully that
head other than the successor of the apostle to whom Christ had given
the keys of heaven and hell?

But this claim, considering the age when it was first advanced, had the
inspiration of genius. It was most opportune. The Bishop of Rome would
soon have been reduced to the condition of other metropolitans had his
dignity rested on the greatness of his capital. He now became the
interpreter of his own decrees,--an arch-pontiff ruling by divine right.
His power became indefinite and unlimited. Just in proportion to the
depth of the religious sentiment of the newly converted barbarians would
be his ascendancy over them; and the Germanic races were religious
peoples like the early Greeks and Romans. Tacitus points out this
sentiment of religion as one of their leading characteristics. It was
not the worship of ancestors, as among the Aryan races until Grecian and
Roman civilization was developed. It was more like the worship of the
invisible powers of Nature; for in the rock, the mountain, the river,
the forest, the sun, the stars, the storms, the rude Teutonic mind saw a
protecting or avenging deity. They easily transferred to the Christian
clergy the reverence they had bestowed on the old priests of Odin, of
Freya, and of Thor. Reverence was one of the great sentiments of our
German ancestors. It was only among such a people that an overpowering
spiritual despotism could be maintained. The Pope became to them the
vicegerent of the great Power which they adored. The records of the race
do not show such another absorbing pietism as was seen in the monastic
retreats of the Middle Ages, except among the Brahmans and Buddhists of
India. This religious fervor the popes were to make use of, to extend
their empire.

And that nothing might be wanted to cement their power which had been
thus assured, the Emperor Valentinian III.--a monarch controlled by
Leo--passed in the year 445 this celebrated decree:--

"The primacy of the Apostolic See having been established by the merit
of Saint Peter, its founder, the sacred Council of Nice, and the dignity
of the city of Rome, we thus declare our irrevocable edict, that all
bishops, whether in Gaul or elsewhere, shall make no innovation without
the sanction of the Bishop of Rome; and, that the Apostolic See may
remain inviolable, all bishops who shall refuse to appear before the
tribunal of the Bishop of Rome, when cited, shall be constrained to
appear by the governor of the province."

Thus firmly was the Papacy rooted in the middle of the fifth century,
not only by the encroachments of bishops, but by the authority of
emperors. The papal dominion begins, as an institution, with Leo the
Great. As a religion it began when Paul and Peter preached at Rome. Its
institution was peculiar and unique; a great spiritual government
usurping the attributes of other governments, as predicted by Daniel,
and, at first benignant, ripening into a gloomy tyranny,--a tyranny so
unscrupulous and grasping as to become finally, in the eyes of Luther,
an evil power. As a religion, as I have said, it did not widely depart
from the primitive creeds until it added to the doctrines generally
accepted by the Church, and even still by Protestants, those other
dogmas which were means to an end,--that end the possession of power and
its perpetuation among ignorant people. Yet these dogmas, false as they
are, never succeeded in obscuring wholly the truths which are taught in
the gospel, or in extinguishing faith in the world. In all the
encroachments of the Papacy, in all the triumphs of an unauthorized
Church polity, the flame of true Christian piety has been dimmed, but
not extinguished. And when this fatal and ambitious polity shall have
passed away before the advance of reason and civilization, as other
governments have been overturned, the lamp of piety will yet burn, as in
other churches, since it will be fed by the Bible and the Providence of
God. Governments and institutions pass away, but not religions;
certainly not the truths originally declared among the mountains of
Judea, which thus far have proved the elevation of nations.

It is then the government, not the religion, which Leo inaugurated, with
which we have to do. And let us remember in reference to this
government, which became so powerful and absolute, that Leo only laid
the foundation. He probably did not dream of subjecting the princes of
the earth except in matters which pertained to his supremacy as a
spiritual ruler. His aim was doubtless spiritual, not temporal. He had
no such deep designs as Hildebrand and Innocent III. cherished. The
encroachments of later ages he did not anticipate. His doctrine was,
"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the
things which are God's." As the vicegerent of the Almighty, which he
felt himself to be in spiritual matters, he would institute a
guardianship over everything connected with religion, even education,
which can never be properly divorced from it. He was the patron of
schools, as he was of monasteries. He could advise kings: he could not
impose upon them his commands (except in Church matters), as Boniface
VIII. sought to do. He would organize a network of Church functionaries,
not of State officers; for he was the head of a great religious
institution. He would send his legates to the end of the earth to
superintend the work of the Church, and rebuke princes, and protest
against wars; for he had the religious oversight of Christendom.

Now when we consider that there was no central power in Europe at this
time, that the barbaric princes were engaged in endless wars, and that a
fearful gloom was settling upon everything pertaining to education and
peace and order; that even the clergy were ignorant, and the people
superstitious; that everything was in confusion, tending to a worse
confusion, to perfect anarchy and barbaric license; that provincial
councils were no longer held; that bishops and abbots were abdicating
their noblest functions,--we feel that the spiritual supremacy which Leo
aimed to establish had many things to be said in its support; that his
central rule was a necessity of the times, keeping civilization from
utter ruin.

In the first place, what a great idea it was to preserve the unity of
the Church,--the idea of Cyprian and Augustine and all the great
Fathers,--an idea never exploded, and one which we even in these times
accept, though not in the sense understood by the Roman Catholics! We
cannot conceive of the Church as established by the apostles, without
recognizing the necessity of unity in doctrines and discipline. Who in
that age could conserve this unity unless it were a great spiritual
monarch? In our age books, universities, theological seminaries, the
press, councils, and an enlightened clergy can see that no harm comes to
the great republic which recognizes Christ as the invisible head. Not so
fifteen hundred years ago. The idea of unity could only be realized by
the exercise of sufficient power in one man to preserve the integrity of
the orthodox faith, since ignorance and anarchy covered the earth with
their funereal shades.

The Protestants are justly indignant in view of subsequent encroachments
and tyrannies. But these were not the fault of Leo. Everything good in
its day is likely to be perverted. The whole history of society is the
history of the perversion of institutions originally beneficent. Take
the great foundations for education and other moral and intellectual
necessities, which were established in the Middle Ages by good men. See
how these are perverted and misused even in such glorious universities
as Oxford and Cambridge. See how soon the primitive institutions of
apostles were changed, in order to facilitate external conquests and
make the Church a dignified worldly power. Not only are we to remember
that everything good has been perverted, and ever will be, but that all
governments, religious and civil, seem to be, in one sense,
expediencies,--that is, adapted to the necessities and circumstances of
the times. In the Bible there are no settled laws definitely laid down
for the future government of the Church,--certainly not for the
government of States and cities. A government which was best for the
primitive Christians of the first two centuries was not adapted to the
condition of the Church in the third and fourth centuries, else there
would not have been bishops. If we take a narrow-minded and partisan
view of bishops, we might say that they always have existed since the
times of the apostles; the Episcopalians might affirm that the early
churches were presided over by bishops, and the Presbyterians that every
ordained minister was a bishop,--that elder and bishop are synonymous.
But that is a contest about words, not things. In reality, episcopal
power, as we understand it, was not historically developed till there
was a large increase in the Christian communities, especially in great
cities, where several presbyters were needed, one of whom presided over
the rest. Some such episcopal institution, I am willing to concede, was
a necessity, although I cannot clearly see the divine authority for it.
In like manner other changes became necessary, which did not militate
against the welfare of the Church, but tended to preserve it. New
dignities, new organizations, new institutions for the government of the
Church successively arose. All societies must have a government. This is
a law recognized in the nature of things. So Christian society must be
organized and ruled according to the necessities of the times; and the
Scriptures do not say what these shall be,--they are imperative and
definite only in matters of faith and morals. To guard the faith, to
purify the morals according to the Christian standard, overseers,
officers, rulers are required. In the early Church they were all
brethren. The second and third century made bishops. The next age made
archbishops and metropolitans and patriarchs. The age which succeeded
was the age of Leo; and the calamities and miseries and anarchies and
ignorance of the times, especially the rule of barbarians, seemed to
point to a monarchical head, a more theocratic government,--a
government so august and sacred that it could not be resisted.

And there can be but little doubt that this was the best government for
the times. Let me illustrate by civil governments. There is no law laid
down in the Bible for these. In the time of our Saviour the world was
governed by a universal monarch. The imperial rule had become a
necessity. It was tyrannical; but Paul as well as Christ exhorted his
followers to accept it. In process of time, when the Empire fell, every
old province had a king,--indeed there were several kings in France, as
well as in Germany and Spain. The prelates of the Church never lifted up
their voice against the legality of this feudo-kingly rule. Then came a
revolt, after the Reformation, against the government of kings. New
England and other colonies became small republics, almost democracies.
On the hills of New England, with a sparse rural population and small
cities, the most primitive form of government was the best. It was
virtually the government of townships. The selectmen were the overseers;
and, following the necessities of the times, the ministers of the gospel
were generally Independents or Congregationalists, not clergy of the
Established Church of Old England. Both the civil and the religious
governments which they had were the best for the people. But what was
suited to Massachusetts would not be fit for England or France. See how
our government has insensibly drifted towards a strong central power.
What must be the future necessities of such great cities as New York,
Philadelphia, and Chicago,--where even now self-government is a failure,
and the real government is in the hands of rings of politicians, backed
by foreign immigrants and a lawless democracy? Will the wise, the
virtuous, and the rich put up forever with such misrule as these cities
have had, especially since the Civil War? And even if other institutions
should gradually be changed, to which we now cling with patriotic zeal,
it may be for the better and not the worse. Those institutions are the
best which best preserve the morals and liberties of the people; and
such institutions will gradually arise as the country needs, unless
there shall be a general shipwreck of laws, morals, and faith, which I
do not believe will come. It is for the preservation of these laws,
morals, and doctrines that all governments are held responsible. A
change in the government is nothing; a decline of morals and faith is

I make these remarks in order that we may see that the rise of a great
central power in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, in the fifth century,
may have been a great public benefit, perhaps a necessity. It became
corrupt; it forgot its mission. Then it was attacked by Luther. It
ceased to rule England and a part of Germany and other countries where
there were higher public morals and a purer religious faith. Some fear
that the rule of the Roman Church will be re-established in this
country. Never,--only its religion. The Catholic Church may plant her
prelates in every great city, and the whole country may be regarded by
them as missionary ground for the re-establishment of the papal polity.
But the moment this polity raises its head and becomes arrogant, and
seeks to subvert the other established institutions of the country or
prevent the use of the Bible in schools, it will be struck down, even as
the Jesuits were once banished from France and Spain. Its religion will
remain,--may gain new adherents, become the religion of vast multitudes.
But it is not the faith which the Roman Catholic Church professes to
conserve which I fear. That is very much like that of Protestants, in
the main. It is the institutions, the polity, the government of that
Church which I speak of, with its questionable means to gain power, its
opposition to the free circulation of the Bible, its interference with
popular education, its prelatical assumptions, its professed allegiance
to a foreign potentate, though as wise and beneficent as Pio Nono or the
reigning Pope.

In the time of Leo there were none of these things. It was a poor,
miserable, ignorant, anarchical, superstitious age. In such an age the
concentration of power in the hands of an intelligent man is always a
public benefit. Certainly it was wielded wisely by Leo, and for
beneficent ends. He established the patristic literature. The writings
of the great Fathers were by him scattered over Europe, and were studied
by the clergy, so far as they were able to study anything. All the great
doctrines of Augustine and Jerome and Athanasius were defended. The
whole Church was made to take the side of orthodoxy, and it remained
orthodox to the times of Bernard and Anselm. Order was restored to the
monasteries; and they so rapidly gained the respect of princes and good
men that they were richly endowed, and provision made in them for the
education of priests. Everywhere cathedral schools were established. The
canon law supplanted in a measure the old customs of the German forests
and the rude legislation of feudal chieftains. When bishops quarrelled
with monasteries or with one another, or even with barons, appeals were
sent to Rome, and justice was decreed. In after times these appeals were
settled on venal principles, but not for centuries. The early Mediaeval
popes were the defenders of justice and equity. And they promoted peace
among quarrelsome barons, as well as Christian truth among divines. They
set aside, to some extent, those irascible and controversial councils
where good and great men were persecuted for heresy. These popes had no
small passions to gratify or to stimulate. They were the conservators of
the peace of Europe, as all reliable historians testify. They were
generally very enlightened men,--the ablest of their times. They
established canons and laws which were based on wisdom, which stood the
test of ages, and which became venerable precedents.

The Catholic polity was only gradually established, sustained by
experience and reason. And that is the reason why it has been so
permanent. It was most admirably adapted to rule the ignorant in ages of
cruelty and crime,--and, I am inclined to think, to rule the ignorant
and superstitious everywhere. Great critics are unanimous in their
praises of that wonderful mechanism which ruled the world for one
thousand years.

Nor did the popes, for several centuries after Leo, grasp the temporal
powers of princes. As political monarchs they were at first poor and
insignificant. The Papacy was not politically a great power until the
time of Hildebrand, nor a rich temporal power till nearly the era of the
Reformation. It was a spiritual power chiefly, just such as it is
destined to become again,--the organizer of religious forces; and, so
far as these are animated by the gospel and reason, they are likely to
have a perpetuated influence. Who can predict the end of a spiritual
empire which shows no signs of decay? It is not half so corrupt as it
was in the time of Boniface VIII., nor half so feeble as in the time of
Leo X. It is more majestic and venerable than in the time of Luther. Nor
are Protestants so bitter and one-sided as they were fifty years ago.
They begin to judge this great power by broader principles; to view it
as it really is,--not as "Antichrist" and the "scarlet mother," but as a
venerable institution, with great abuses, having at heart the interests
of those whom it grinds down and deceives.

But, after all, I do not in this Lecture present the Papacy of the
eleventh century or the nineteenth, but the Papacy of the fifth century,
as organized by Leo. True, its fundamental principles as a government
are the same as then. These principles I do not admire, especially for
an enlightened era. I only palliate them in reference to the wants of a
dark and miserable age, and as a critic insist upon their notable
success in the age that gave them birth.

With these remarks on the regimen, the polity, and the government of the
Church of which Leo laid the foundation, and which he adapted to
barbarous ages, when the Church was still a struggling power and
Christianity itself little better than nominal,--long before it had much
modified the laws or changed the morals of society; long before it had
created a new civilization,--with these remarks, acceptable, it may be,
neither to Catholics nor to Protestants, I turn once more to the man
himself. Can you deny his title to the name of Great? Would you take him
out of the galaxy of illustrious men whom we still call Fathers and
Saints? Even Gibbon praises his exalted character. What would the
Church of the Middle Ages have been without such aims and aspirations?
Oh, what a benevolent mission the Papacy performed in its best ages,
mitigating the sorrows of the poor, raising the humble from degradation,
opposing slavery and war, educating the ignorant, scattering the Word of
God, heading off the dreadful tyranny of feudalism, elevating the
learned to offices of trust, shielding the pious from the rapacity of
barons, recognizing man as man, proclaiming Christian equalities,
holding out the hopes of a future life to the penitent believer, and
proclaiming the sovereignty of intelligence over the reign of brute
forces and the rapacity of ungodly men! All this did Leo, and his
immediate successors. And when he superadded to the functions of a great
religious magistrate the virtues of the humblest Christian,--parting
with his magnificent patrimony to feed the poor, and proclaiming (with
an eloquence unusual in his time) the cardinal doctrines of the
Christian faith, and setting himself as an example of the virtues which
he preached,--we concede his claim to be numbered among the great
benefactors of mankind. How much worse Roman Catholicism would have been
but for his august example and authority! How much better to educate the
ignorant people, who have souls to save, by the patristic than by
heathen literature, with all its poison of false philosophies and
corrupting stimulants! Who, more than he and his immediate successors,
taught loyalty to God as the universal Sovereign, and the virtues
generated by a peaceful life,--patriotism, self-denial, and faith? He
was a dictator only as Bernard was, ruling by the power of learning and
sanctity. As an original administrative genius he was scarcely surpassed
by Gregory VII. Above all, he sought to establish faith in the world.
Reason had failed. The old civilization was a dismal mockery of the
aspirations of man. The schools of Athens could make Sophists,
rhetoricians, dialecticians, and sceptics. But the faith of the Fathers
could bring philosophers to the foot of the Cross. What were material
conquests to these conquests of the soul, to this spiritual reign of the
invisible principles of the kingdom of Christ?

So, as the vicegerents of Almighty power, the popes began to reign.
Ridicule not that potent domination. What lessons of human experience,
what great truths of government, what principles of love and wisdom are
interwoven with it! Its growth is more suggestive than the rise of any
temporal empires. It has produced more illustrious men than any European
monarchy. And it aimed to accomplish far grander ends,--even obedience
to the eternal laws which God has decreed for the public and private
lives of men. It is invested with more poetic interest. Its doctors, its
dignitaries, its saints, its heroes, its missions, and its laws rise up
before us in sublime grandeur when seriously contemplated. It failed at
last, when no longer needed. But it was not until its encroachments and
corruptions shocked the reason of the world, and showed a painful
contrast to those virtues which originally sustained it, that earnest
men arose in indignation, and declared that this perverted institution
should no longer be supported by the contributions of more enlightened
ages; that it had become a tyrannical and dangerous government, to be
assailed and broken up. It has not yet passed away. It has survived the
Reformation and the attacks of its countless enemies. How long this
power of blended good and evil will remain we cannot predict. But one
thing we do know,--that the time will come when all governments shall
become the kingdoms of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and Christian
truth alone shall so permeate all human institutions that the forces of
evil shall be driven forever into the immensity of eternal night.

With the Pontificate of Leo the Great that dark period which we call the
"Middle Ages" may be said to begin. The disintegration of society then
was complete, and the reign of ignorance and superstition had set in.
With the collapse of the old civilization a new power had become a
necessity. If anything marked the Middle Ages it was the reign of
priests and nobles. This reign it will be my object to present in the
Lectures which are to fill the next volume of this Work, together with
subjects closely connected with papal domination and feudal life.


Works of Leo, edited by Quesnel; Zosimus; Socrates; Theodoret; Fleury's
Ecclesiastical History; Tillemont's Histoire des Empereurs; Gibbon's
Decline and Fall; Beugot's Histoire de la Destruction du Paganism;
Alexander de Saint Chéron's Histoire du Pontificat de Saint Leo le
Grande, et de son Siècle; Dumoulin's Vie et Religion de deux Papes Léon
I. et Grégoire I.; Maimbourg's Histoire du Pontificat de Saint Léon;
Arendt's Leo der Grosse und seine Zeit; Butler's Lives of the Saints;
Neander; Milman's Latin Christianity; Biographie Universelle;
Encyclopaedia Britannica. The Church historians universally praise
this Pope.

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