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The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

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    CHAPTER IV. THE “TEN PERSECUTIONS.”

    Roman law and the Jews—The persecution by Nero—Government of Domitian—Pliny and the Christians—Government of Trajan—Riotous attacks upon the Christians—Government of Commodus—Government of Septimius Severus—Government of Caracalla—Persecution by Maximum—The persecution by Decius—Christianity legalized—The ten persecutions a fable

    THAT which Rome was in its supreme place, the other cities of the empire,—Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc.—were in their narrower spheres; for it was the licentiousness of Greece and the East which had given to the corruption of Rome a deeper dye. Into that world of iniquity, Jesus Christ sent, as sheep among wolves, a little band of disciples carrying hope to the despairing, joy to the sorrowing, comfort to the afflicted, relief to the distressed, peace to the perplexed, and to all a message of merciful forgiveness of sins, of the gift of the righteousness of God, and of a purity and power which would cleanse the soul from all unrighteousness of heart and life, and plant there instead the perfect purity of the life of the Son of God and the courage of an everlasting joy. This gospel of peace and of the power of God unto salvation they were commanded to go into all the world and preach to every creature.TTR 109.1

    The disciples went everywhere preaching the word, and before the death of men who were then in the prime of life this good news of the grace of God had actually been preached in all the then known world. Romans 1:8 and 10:18; Colossians 1:6, 23. And by it many were brought to the knowledge of the peace and power of God, revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. “In every congregation there were prayers to God that he would listen to the sighing of the prisoner and captive, and have mercy on those who were ready to die. For the slave and his master there was one law and one hope, one baptism, one Saviour, one Judge. In times of domestic bereavement the Christian slave doubtless often consoled his pagan mistress with the suggestion that our present separations are only for a little while, and revealed to her willing ear that there is another world—a land in which we rejoin our dead. How is it possible to arrest the spread of a faith which can make the broken heart leap with joy?”—Draper. 1[Page 110] “Intellectual Development of Europe,” chap. ix, par. 8.TTR 109.2

    Yet to arrest the spread of that faith there were many long, earnest, and persistent efforts by the Roman empire. Before entering, however, upon the examination of this subject as it is, it is necessary to notice a point that has been much misunderstood or else much misrepresented; that is the imperial or “Ten Persecutions.”TTR 110.1

    In the Church and State scheme of the fourth century, the theory of the bishops was that the kingdom of God was come; and to maintain the theory it became necessary to pervert the meaning of both Scripture history and Scripture prophecy. Accordingly, as the antitype of the ten plagues of Egypt, and as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the ten horns which made war with the Lamb (Revelation 17:12-14), there was invented the theory of ten persecutions of the Christians inflicted by the ten emperors, Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Maximin, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian. Some of these persecuted the Christians, as Nero, Marcus Aurelius, Decius, and Diocletian; others were as gentle toward the Christians as toward anybody else; and yet others not named in the list, persecuted everybody but the Christians. The truth is that so far as the emperors were concerned, taken one with another, from Nero to Diocletian, the Christians fared as well as anybody else.TTR 110.2

    In this discussion and in the study of this subject everywhere, it must ever be borne in mind that Christianity was wholly outlawed in the Roman empire, and that every one who professed it became by the very fact of his profession an outlaw—an enemy to the emperor and people of Rome, and guilty of high treason.TTR 110.3

    So long as the Christians were confounded with the Jews, no persecution befell them from the Roman State, because the Roman empire had recognized the Jewish religion as lawful; consequently when the Emperor Claudius commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, Christians were included among them, as for instance Aquila and Priscilla. Acts 18:1, 2. And when in Corinth, under Gallio the Roman governor of the province of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection against Paul upon the charge that “this fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law,” Gallio replied: “If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.” And with this, “he drave them from the judgment seat.” Acts 18:12-16. Also when the centurion Lysias had rescued Paul from the murderous Jews in Jerusalem, and would send him for protection to Felix the governor, he wrote to Felix thus: “When I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.” Chap 23:28, 29.TTR 111.1

    To please the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison. When Festus came in and had given him a hearing, and would bring his case before King Agrippa, he spoke thus of the matter: “There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. Therefore, when they were come hither without any delay on the morrow, I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth. Against whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.” And when Agrippa had heard him, the unanimous decision was, “This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds,” and Agrippa declared, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” Acts 25:14-21; 26:31, 32.TTR 111.2

    And even when he had been heard twice by Caesar—Nero—as it was still but a controversy between Jews concerning questions of their own, the Roman power refused to take cognizance of the case, and Paul, a Christian, was released. But when Christianity had spread among the Gentiles and a clear distinction was made and recognized between the Christians and the Jews, by all parties, and Christianity appeared as a new religion not recognized by the Roman law, then came the persecution of Christians by the Roman State.TTR 112.1

    The first persecution of the Christians was that which was inflicted by—TTR 112.2

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