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respect for order, and reverence for ancestral customs, supplied a sufficient occasion for worshipping the gods according to the established religion, though in his opinion such worship was nothing to the gods themselves.)

How far the unbelief of the learned descended to the masses, is a question that is difficult to answer. Probably among the majority of those in any wise accessible to the new currents, scepticism was more practical than theoretical, and consisted rather in loss of enthusiasm for the ancient faith than in positive denial and repudiation of the same. They were not so much prepared to reject their old divinities as to give them a fragmentary worship, making new objects of idolatry their rivals. Still we may presume that there was a fraction of the people in all the large cities to whom the common heathen religion was nearly as much a blank as it was to Valerius Maximus, when, in the preface to his work (A.D. 29–32), he appealed to the Emperor Tiberius rather than to another god, because the emperor was a god who was known to exist, while the existence of the other gods was only a matter of conjecture. In fact, no inconsiderable portion of the worship came to be paid to the emperors. Magnificent temples were dedicated to the divine Augustus, and the other imperial gods in various quarters of the Empire. Some of the emperors did not wait for the post-mortem deification. Augustus and Tiberius yielded to requests of Asiatic cities who wished to give them a place among their deities. Caligula went further, arrogating for himself the character of a god, and ordaining a magnificent worship in his own honor. Domitian was equally in haste for divine honors, and applied to himself the title, “Lord and God."2 In some instances the favorites of the emperors were raised to the deified rank. Ending with Diocletian, we have, it is computed, no less than fifty-three formal deifications, of which fifteen applied to women of the imperial family.3 Think of being

1 Compare Augustine, De Civ. Dei., iv. 30, 31, vi. 10. 3 Tacitus, Annal., iv. 37.

3 required to pay homage to such gods! Yet for no gods over or in the Empire was homage so jealously exacted as for these. To refuse to render tokens of idolatrous respect to the emperor, was counted not merely an infraction of religious duty, but a crime against the majesty of the State. It was just this refusal, therefore, which sent thousands of Christians to martyrdom.

The emperor-worship was only one among the innovations of the age. Unbelief had hardly reached its maximum before the current set in the direction of superstition. For any surrender of old rites, double compensation was sought in new and strange worships. If the old system of auguries and omens was in part neglected, a swarm of astrologers, soothsayers, and necromancers were eagerly consulted in its place. A decisive bent toward the mystic and the obscure in religion was engendered. On this account the rites of the Orient became especially attractive. Egyptian, Syrian, and even Persian gods claimed their devotees in Rome. The feeble opposition of the Government was soon broken down. Emperors themselves became worshippers of Isis and others of the mystic deities of Egypt and the East. Nero, after devoting himself for a time to the Syrian goddess, turned to fetichism, and awarded his supreme confidence to the image of a little girl which was given him by an obscure plebeian.' According to Pliny, he also indulged his superstition in a less harmless way, offering human sacrifices in connection with the magic arts which he practised for a long time.? In the second century superstition almost wholly took the place of unbelief, within the domain of heathenism. Among the strongest evidences of this is the fact that the most eminent and philosophic men of the time paid tribute to superstitious fears or beliefs. Even the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius was no adequate safeguard; and we find him, in connection with the war against the Marcomanni, calling priests from all lands to Rome, and engaging himself so long with the foreign rites that he joined the army considerably later than was expected.

1 "He instituted a temple and priests, with choicest victims, in honor of his own divinity. In his temple stood a statue of gold, the exact image of himself, which was daily dressed in garments corresponding with those he wore himself. The most opulent persons in the city offered themselves as candidates for the honor of being his priests, and purchased it successively at an immense price.” (SUETONIUS: Caligula, xxii.)

2 Suetonius, Domitian, xiii.
3 Döllinger, Heid. und Jud., p. 616.

This relative disintegration of heathen religions is one of the most prominent tokens that the fulness of time had come. Between men satisfied with their faith and men who have become restless or dissatisfied, there is an immeasurable difference, as respects the feasibility of conversion to a new system. The heathen world had become restless. It found no lasting satisfaction in unbelief; and where unbelief had come to its logical result, and issued in increased superstition, it still failed of real satisfaction. Men became the devotees of different gods, and experimented with different rites, to discover that none could bring the desired rest and healing. A longing was felt for a God in whom unlimited confidence could be reposed. At the same time an unwonted attention was directed toward the future. There was a growing desire for definite assurance with respect to the life beyond the grave. It was largely in pursuance of this desire that men were so zealous after initiation into mysteries old and new ; for these had special reference to the gods presiding over death and hades. In the enjoyment of their special favor, the initiated hoped for a happier life in the hereafter than was prepared for men in general. It was a searching, experimenting age. Men felt the need of a more perfect revelation concerning God and immortality than was anywhere to be found in the heathen world.

1 Suetonius, Nero, lvi. 2 Hist. Nat., Xxx. 5, 6.

With desire some measure of expectation was joined. Place was found for the idea that the whole circle of the ages, from the golden to the iron, having been run, the circle was now to begin afresh, and a new golden age to be introduced. Virgil, already, in the reign of Augustus, took up this hope; and in his fourth eclogue embodied it in the son of Pollio, in language strongly suggestive of the words of Isaiah (ix., xi). He pictures a divine child who was to usher in an era of unknown peace and blessedness, - a true presentiment, but wrongly applied, for this son of Pollio died miserably in prison, a victim of Nero's tyranny. According to Döllinger, the description of Virgil was only one among several interpretations that were given to a prediction found in

the Sibylline prophecies at Rome. In any case, it is probable that Jewish prophecy had much to do in originating these expectations. Perhaps we may refer to the same source the saying, mentioned by Suetonius 2 and Tacitus, that he should go forth from Judæa, who was destined to rule the world.

The sense of need, and the gleams of expectation entertained in the heathen world, especially the former, ministered greatly to the victorious progress of Christianity. To be sure, Christianity did not assume to meet the need in a way that was acceptable. It was too spiritual and too crucifying to the pride of the natural man to be readily received by the great mass. The heathen world, apart from an elect few, misunderstood its teachings, spurned its offers, and contended fiercely against its evangelism. Nevertheless, Christianity was essentially adapted to meet the needs of which that restless heathen world had an underlying consciousness. It proclaimed the God in whom unlimited confidence could be reposed, and declared the immortal life with an inspiration and authority that had never before been witnessed. Prejudice and carnality were strong to oppose the religion of the Crucified, but the deep needs and aspirations of the age were stronger still to urge its acceptance. The pagan multitudes in the first centuries were much like the stalwart

1 Heid. und Jud., p. 733.

2 "A firm persuasion,” says Suetonius," had long prevailed through all the East, that it was fated for the empire of the world at that time to devolve upon some one who should go forth from Judæa.” (Vespasian, iv.)

8 Historiæ, v. 13. “ Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum litteris contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens profectique Judæa rerum potirentur."

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