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    CHAPTER I. THE HEATHEN WORLD

    In order clearly to comprehend the peculiar dangers of the early Christians, we must know the condition of the heathen world in the time of Christ and his apostles, since it was mainly from among the heathen that converts to Christianity were obtained. If we know the beliefs which men held, and the practices to which they were addicted before their conversion, we can readily tell what errors they would be most likely to adopt if they should in any degree turn from the faith; and we shall also know what would be the state of the church if any considerable number of its communicants were converted only in name.FACC 9.1

    In the first chapter of Romans the apostle Paul has given a brief but comprehensive view of the state of morals among the heathen, and of the steps by which they reached the depth of degradation which is there revealed. He first notices the fact that at one time the people did know God. Verse 21. From the Mosaic record we learn the same thing. We know that in the years immediately following the creation and the flood, all the inhabitants of the earth had the knowledge of the true God. Adam and Noah—the two fathers of the race—served the Lord, and they would of course teach their children about him and his requirements. There could, therefore, be no excuse for the gross ignorance which afterward prevailed.FACC 9.2

    Even had this oral teaching been wanting, there would have been no excuse for the abominable idolatry and the ignorance of God, which characterized nearly all of the inhabitants of the earth, because nature itself reveals not only the existence, but also the power of God. In speaking of the heathen, Paul indicates the justice of God in pouring out his wrath upon them, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in [to] them; for God hath showed it unto them.” Romans 1:19. The next verse tells how God revealed himself unto them. As we quote it, we transpose the clauses, to save the necessity of explanation by comment: “For from [i.e. since] the creation of the world, the invisible things of him [God], even his eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; so that they [those who deny God] are without excuse.” More than this, the same apostle tells us that God “left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. The psalmist also tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. So plainly does nature teach the existence of God, that he who even in his secret thought says, “There is no God,” is justly called a fool. Psalm 14:1. Such an one may be said to be ignorant of the a b c of knowledge.FACC 10.1

    Nevertheless it is a fact that the nations did forget God; and Romans 1:22-32 is an accurate description of their condition in consequence. The truthfulness of this description is attested by the heathen themselves. They deified the most profligate men and women, and worshiped vice instead of virtue. Their gods were male and female, and mythology, i. e., the history of the gods, is little else than a record of licentiousness. The Baal and Ashtoreth of the Canaanites, were the Jupiter and Venus of the Romans and Greeks, and every heathen nation had gods corresponding to them. The temples erected to them were magnificent brothels, and their priestesses were prostitutes. Licentiousness was not simply allowed, but it was commanded as an act of religion. Among the Babylonians it is said that, “once at least in her life, every woman was obliged to prostitute herself in the temple of Bel.”—American Cyclopedia, art. Babylon. Heathenism “had made lust into a religion, and the worship of its gods a school of vice, penetrating all classes of society.”FACC 10.2

    As it is not our object in this discussion to give simply our views, but to give the reasons for the views which we hold, we shall invariably quote from authorities, so that the reader may examine for himself. Let the reader first read Romans 1:18-32, and then compare it with the quotations that follow. Professor Stuart, in his “Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” says on the twenty-seventh verse of the first chapter:—
    “The evidences of the fact here stated by the apostle are too numerous and prominent among the heathen writers to need even a reference to them. Virgil himself, ‘the chase Virgil,’ as he has been often called, has a Corydon amabat Alexin [Corydon loving Alexis], without seeming to feel the necessity of a blush for it. Such a fact sets the whole matter in the open day. That at Athens and Rome patosraotia [sodomy] was a very common and habitual thing, needs no proof to one who has read the Greek and Latin classics, especially the amatory poets, to any considerable extent. Plutarch tells us that Solon practiced it; and Diogenes Laertius says the same of the stoic Zeno. Need we be surprised, then, if the same horrible vice was frequent in the more barbarous parts of Greece and the Roman Empire?”
    FACC 11.1

    In the heathen worship there were “mysteries,” to which only the initiated were admitted. These were celebrated in the inner temples, and it is doubtless of them that the apostle Paul speaks when he says: “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Ephesians 5:12. If the things recorded in the first chapter of Romans were done openly, what must have been the depth of the wickedness that was done in secret, and of which it is a shame even to speak? But let it be understood that the heathen themselves felt no shame for any of their practices. They gloried in them, as things which brought them nearer to the gods. The more licentious they were, the more nearly they resembled the gods which they worshiped. The worst abominations were done in secret, not out of a sense of shame, but to show that certain ones had advanced beyond the common people in matters of “religion.” On this point, Professor Stuart, in commenting on Romans 1:24, says:—
    “The imputation is, that in apostatizing from the true God, and betaking themselves to the worship of idols, they had at the same time been the devoted slaves of lust; which indeed seems here also, by implication, to be assigned as the reason or ground of their apostasy. Everyone knows, moreover, that among almost all the various forms of heathenism, impurity has been either a direct or indirect service in its pretended religious duties. Witness the shocking law among the Babylonians, that every woman should prostitute herself, at least once, before the shrine of their Venus. It is needless to say, that the worshipers of Venus in Greece and Rome practiced such rites; or that the mysteries of heathenism, of which Paul says ‘it is a shame even to speak,’ allowed a still greater latitude of indulgence. Nor is it necessary to describe the obscene and bloody rites practiced in Hindostan, in the South Sea and the Sandwich Islands, and generally among the heathen. Polytheism and idolatry have nearly always been a religion of obscenity and blood.”
    FACC 12.1

    Summing up the evidence against them, Paul says that they were “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” Romans 1:29-31. And to crown all, he adds that they not only did these things, but had pleasure in those who did them. Nothing could exceed such depravity. As Professor Stuart says:—
    “It is often the case, that wicked men, whose consciences have been enlightened, speak reproachfully of others who practice such vices as they themselves indulge in. Few profligate parents, for example, are willing that their children should sustain the same character with themselves. But when we find, as in some cases we may do, such parents encouraging and applauding their children in acts of wickedness, 1Witness the well-known case of the Spartans, who made it a business to teach their children to steal and lie, and among whom the highest virtue known was skill in committing and concealing what are ordinarily termed crimes. we justly consider it as evidence of the very highest kind of depravity.”
    FACC 13.1

    “It is of such depravity as this that the apostle accuses the heathen. And justly; for even their philosophers and the best educated among them, stood chargeable with such an accusation. For example; both the Epicureans and the Stoics allowed and defended patosraotia [sodomy] and incest, numbering these horrid crimes among the aoiaphora, things indifferent.”—Comment on Romans 1:32.FACC 13.2

    This was the state of morals, not alone of the lower, uneducated classes, but of the philosophers,—those who instructed the youth in “virtue.” That the apostle uses the term, “without understanding,” with respect to the morals, and not the intellect, will be readily seen from the following quotations:—
    “From the ignorance and uncertainty, which (we have seen) prevailed among some of the greatest teachers of antiquity, concerning those fundamental truths which are the greatest barriers of virtue and religion, it is evident that the heathens had no perfect scheme of moral rules for piety and good manners.... They accounted revenge to be not only lawful, but commendable. Pride and the love of popular applause (the subduing of which is the first principle of true virtue) were esteemed the best and greatest incentives to virtue and noble actions; suicide was regarded as the strongest mark of heroism, and the perpetrators of it, instead of being branded with infamy, were commended and celebrated as men of noble minds. But the interior acts of the soul,—the adultery of the eye and the murder of the heart,—were little regarded. On the contrary, the philosophers countenanced, both by arguments and example, the most flagitious practices. Thus theft, as is well known, was permitted in Egypt and in Sparta; Plato taught the expediency and lawfulness of exposing children in particular cases; and Aristotle, also, of abortion. The exposure of infants, and the putting to death of children who were weak or imperfect in form, was allowed at Sparta by Lycurgus; at Athens, the great seat and nursery of philosophers, the women were treated and disposed of as slaves, and it was enacted that ‘infants, which appeared to be maimed, should either be killed or exposed;’ and that ‘the Athenians might lawfully invade and enslave any people, who, in their opinion, were fit to be made slaves.’ The infamous traffic in human blood was permitted to its utmost extent; and, on certain occasions, the owners of slaves had full permission to kill them.... Customary swearing was commended, if not by the precepts, yet by the example of the best moralists among the heathen philosophers, particularly Socrates, Plato, Seneca, and the Emperor Julian.... The gratification of the sensual appetites, and of the most unnatural lusts, was openly taught and allowed. Aristippus maintained that it was lawful for a wise man to steal, commit adultery, and sacrilege, when opportunity offered; for that none of these actions were naturally evil, setting aside the vulgar opinion, which was introduced by silly and illiterate people; and that a wise man might publicly gratify his libidinous propensities.”
    FACC 14.1

    “Truth was but of small account among many, even of the best heathens; for they taught that on many occasions, a lie was to be preferred to the truth itself! To which we may add, that the unlimited gratification of their sensual appetites, and the commission of unnatural crimes, was common even among the most distinguished teachers of philosophy, and was practiced even by Socrates himself.... ‘The most notorious vices,’ says Quinetilian, speaking of the philosophers of his time, ‘are screened under that name; and they do not labor to maintain the character of philosophers by virtue and study, but conceal the most vicious lives under an austere look and singularity of dress.’”—Horne’s Introduction, vol. 1, chap. 1.FACC 15.1

    In confirmation of the statement that the philosophers encouraged lying, Dr. Whitby collected many maxims of the most eminent heathen sages, from which Dr. Horne quotes the following:—
    “A lie is better than a hurtful truth.”—Menander.
    FACC 15.2

    “Good is better than truth.”—Proclus.FACC 15.3

    “When telling a lie will be profitable, let it be told.”—Darius, in Herodotus, lib.iii, c. 62.FACC 16.1

    “He may lie, who knows how to do it, in a suitable time.”—Plato.FACC 16.2

    “There is nothing decorous in truth, but when it is profitable; yea, sometimes truth is hurtful, and lying is profitable to men.”—Maximus Tyrius.FACC 16.3

    Mosheim says of the time just preceding the introduction of Christianity:—
    “The lives of men of every class, from the highest to the lowest, were consumed in the practice of the most abominable and flagitious vices; even crimes, the horrible turpitude of which was such that it would be defiling the ear of decency but to name them, were openly perpetrated with the greatest impunity.”—Historical Commentaries, vol. 1, chap. 1, sec.21, of Introduction.
    FACC 16.4

    Notwithstanding the unpleasant nature of the theme, we shall pursue it a little further, for it is absolutely necessary that we understand that vice and immorality everywhere prevailed. Speaking of the domestic life of the heathen, Dr. Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church” (vol. 1, sec. 91), says:—
    “Monogamy was the rule both in Greece and in Rome, but did not exclude illegitimate connections. Concubinage, in its proper legal sense, was a sort of secondary marriage with a woman of servile or plebeian extraction, standing below the dignity of a matron and above the infamy of a prostitute. It was sanctioned and regulated by law; it prevailed both in the East and the West from the age of Augustus to the tenth century, and was preferred to regular marriage by Vespasian, and the two Antonines, the best Roman emperors. Adultery was severely punished, at times even with sudden destruction of the offender; but simply as an interference with the rights and property of a free men. The wife had no legal or social protection against the infidelity of her husband. The Romans worshiped a peculiar goddess of domestic life; but her name, Viriplaca, the appeaser of husbands, indicates her partiality. Besides, it must be remembered that the intercourse of a husband with the slaves of his household and with public prostitutes was excluded from the odium and punishment of adultery.... The women, however, seem to have been as corrupt as their husbands, at least in the imperial age. Juvenal calls a chaste wife a ‘rara avis in terris’ [a rare bird in the earth]. Under Augustus, free-born daughters could no longer be found for the service of Vesta, and even the severest laws of Domitian could not prevent the six priestesses of the pure goddess from breaking their vow. Divorce is said to have been almost unknown in the ancient days of the Roman republic. But the customary civil and religious rites of marriage were gradually disused; apparent open community of life between persons of similar rank was taken as sufficient evidence of their nuptials; and marriage, after Augustus, fell to the level of any partnership, which might be dissolved by the abdication of one of the associates.”
    FACC 16.5

    If the thoughtful reader has his mind almost involuntarily directed, by these statements, to the loose conditions of society in our own time, it will not be a matter of surprise. The last days, said our Saviour, will be as the days before the flood, when men “took them wives of all which they chose” (Genesis 6:2); and when we consider the ease with which divorce may be obtained, the pleasure that is taken in reading the details of scandal, as indicated by the prominence given them by the press, and the readiness with which men of known licentiousness are received in “good society,” we see strong evidence that the end is near at hand.FACC 17.1

    We have stated that the more licentious the people were, the more nearly they resembled the gods whom they worshiped. A few quotations concerning the religion of heathenism will give us a still deeper insight into the morals of the people. Says Schaff:—“How could there be any proper conception and abhorrence of the sin of licentiousness and adultery, if the very gods, a Jupiter, a Mars, and a Venus, were believed to be guilty of those crimes? Modesty forbids the mention of a still more odious vice, which even depraved nature abhors, which yet was freely discussed and praised by ancient poets and philosophers, practiced with neither punishment nor dishonor, and likewise divinely sanctioned by the lewdness of Jupiter with Ganymede.”—History of the Church, vol. 1, sec. 91.FACC 17.2

    Another writer says:—
    “As to the religion of heathenism, it is ‘a wild growth on the soil of fallen human nature, a darkening of the original consciousness of God, a deification of the rational and irrational creature, and a corresponding corruption of the moral sense, giving the sanction of religion to natural and unnatural vices.... The gods are involved by their marriages in perpetual jealousies and quarrels. Though called holy and just, they are full of envy and wrath, hatred and lust, and provoke each other to lying and cruelty, perjury and adultery.’”—McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, art. Heathen.
    FACC 18.1

    Such being the nature of the gods, it cannot be expected that the religion of the heathen could possess any high moral tone. Says Gibbon:—FACC 18.2

    “The devotion of the pagans was not incompatible with the most licentious skepticism. Instead of an indivisible and regular system, which occupies the whole extent of the believing mind, the mythology of the Greeks was composed of a thousand loose and flexible parts, and the servant of the gods was at liberty to define the degree and measure of his religious faith.”—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 23, paragraph 3.FACC 18.3

    The same author, in the twelfth paragraph of the chapter mentioned above, in speaking of the attempts of the Emperor Julian to restore the ancient worship of the gods, characterizes it as “a religion, which was destitute of theological principles, of moral precepts, and of ecclesiastical discipline.”FACC 19.1

    In harmony with the quotation last made, Professor Worman says:—
    “Polytheism was always a religion of mere ceremony, unassociated, as a religion, with any moral law. Hence the most religious man in the sense of polytheism might be a shameless profligate, emulating the gods to whom he sacrificed, in their reputed licentiousness, and guilty (as was Socrates) of crimes against which even nature revolts.”—McClintock and Strong, art. Paganism.
    FACC 19.2

    Dr. Mosheim, in the introduction to his “Historical Commentaries,” gives us a view of the peculiar religion of each of the various nations, and in summing up says:—
    “None of these various systems of religion appear to have contributed in the least towards an amendment of the moral principle, a reformation of manners, or to the exciting a love, or even a respect, for virtue of any sort. The gods and goddesses, who were held up as objects of adoration to the common people, instead of exhibiting in themselves examples of a refined and supereminent virtue, displayed in illustrious actions, stood forth to public view the avowed authors of the most flagrant and enormous crimes. The priests likewise took no sort of interest whatever in the regulation of the public morals, neither directing the people by their precepts, nor inviting them by exhortation and example, to the pursuit of a wise and honorable course of life; but on the contrary indulged themselves in the most unwarrantable licentiousness, maintaining that the whole of religion was comprised in the rites and ceremonies instituted by their ancestors, and that every sort of sensual gratification was liberally allowed by the gods to those who regularly ministered to them in this way.”—Chap. 1, sec. 20.
    FACC 19.3

    Although each nation had its own peculiar gods, the gods of all other nations were respected, and their worship was tolerated. Says Gibbon (chap. 2, paragraph 2):—
    “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.”
    FACC 20.1

    If it be objected to this statement that the Jews and Christians were often persecuted with relentless severity, and their religion proscribed, a sufficient answer will be found in the fact that the worshipers of the true God abhorred the heathen worship, and would not countenance it in any manner. Not content with worshiping God in secret, they (especially the Christians) taught the people that “they be no gods, which are made with hands.” Indeed the simple worship of Jehovah was a standing rebuke to the licentious worship of the idolaters. But idolatry was the State religion, and all who opposed it were considered as plotting against the government. In persecuting the Christians, the emperors did not consider that they were warring against a religion, but against treasonable fanaticism. Nothing but idolatry was called religion, and the Jews and Christians were persecuted as instigators of treason.FACC 20.2

    On this point Neander says:—
    “All the ancient religions were national and State religions, and this was especially the case with the Romans, among whom the political point of view predominated in everything, not excepting religion. The public apostasy of citizens from the State religion, and the introduction of a foreign religion, or a new one not legalized by the State (religio illicita), appeared as an act of high treason. In this light was regarded the conversion of Roman citizens or subjects to Christianity. ‘Your religion is illegal’ (non licet esse vos), was the reproach commonly cast on Christians, without referring to the contents of their religion.”—Memorials of Christian Life, chap. 3, paragraph 2.
    FACC 20.3

    The fact, also, that the worship of Jehovah would, if tolerated, tend to check the free indulgence of their passions, acted as an additional spur to the zeal of the heathen persecutors.FACC 21.1

    The following quotation has quite an important bearing on our future investigation. In speaking of the sacrifices and other rites of the heathen, Mosheim says:—
    “Of the prayers of pagan worshipers, whether we regard the matter or the mode of expression, it is impossible to speak favorably; they were not only destitute in general of everything allied to the spirit of genuine piety, but were sometimes framed expressly for the purpose of obtaining the countenance of Heaven to the most abominable and flagitious undertakings. In fact, the greater part of their religious observances were of an absurd and ridiculous nature, and in many instances strongly tinctured with the most disgraceful barbarism and obscenity. Their festivals and other solemn days were polluted by a licentious indulgence in every species of libidinous excess; and on these occasions they were not prohibited even from making the sacred mansions of their gods the scenes of vile and beastly gratification.”—Historical Commentaries, Introduction, chap. 1, sec. 11.
    FACC 21.2

    When even the religion which men profess tends to deepen their natural depravity, what good can be expected of them? No man can fully comprehend such wickedness; for the man who has had no experience in such debasing forms of sin cannot understand how anybody can sink so low; and the man who has descended to the depths of vice has his moral sense so blunted that sin no longer appears sinful. We might quote pages upon pages of matter similar to the above, but we do not wish to harrow the reader’s mind with any more than is actually necessary to impress upon it the condition of the world into which the apostles were sent out as sheep among wolves. As showing the degeneracy of the ancient heathen, and also how sin can obliterate from the heart all true conception of right and wrong, the following is to the point:—“One of the most formidable obstacles which Christian missionaries have encountered in teaching the doctrines and precepts of the gospel to the heathen, has been the absence from their languages of a spiritual and ethical nomenclature. It is in vain that the religious teachers of a people present to them a doctrinal or ethical system inculcating virtues and addressed to faculties, whose very existence their language, and consequently the conscious self-knowledge of the people, do not recognize. The Greeks and Romans, for example, had a clear conception of a moral ideal, but the Christian idea of sin was utterly unknown to the pagan mind. Vice they regarded as simply a relaxed energy of the will, by which it yielded to the allurements of sensual pleasure; and virtue, literally manliness, was the determined spirit, the courage and vigor with which it resisted such temptations. But the idea of holiness and the antithetic idea of sin were such utter strangers to the pagan mind that it would have been impossible to express them in either of the classical tongues of antiquity.”—William Matthews, LL.D., in “Words; Their Use and Abuse,” pp. 70,71.FACC 21.3

    In leaving this part of the subject, we present a summary in the shape of some extracts from Dr. Edersheim’s great work, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.” In it he has admirably portrayed the condition of the Roman world in the time of Christ. Speaking of the city of Rome, the mistress of the world, he says:—“Of a population of about two millions, well-nigh one-half were slaves; and, of the rest, the greater part either freedmen and their descendants, or foreigners. Each class contributed its share to the common decay. Slavery was not even what we know it, but a seething mass of cruelty and oppression on the one side, and of cunning and corruption on the other. More than any other cause, it contributed to the ruin of Roman society. The freedmen, who had very often acquired their liberty by the most disreputable courses, and had prospered in them, combined in shameless manner the vices of the free with the vileness of the slave. The foreigners—specially Greeks and Syrians—who crowded the city, poisoned the springs of its life by the corruption which they brought. The free citizens were idle, dissipated, sunken; their chief thoughts of the theater and the arena; and they were mostly supported at the public cost. While, even in the time of Augustus, more than two hundred thousand persons were thus maintained by the State, what of the old Roman stock remained was rapidly decaying, partly from corruption, but chiefly from the increasing cessation of marriage, and the nameless abominations of what remained of family life.”—Vol. 1, book 2, chap. 2.FACC 22.1

    Again in the same chapter he says:—
    “Without tracing the various phases of ancient thought, it may be generally said that, in Rome at least, the issue lay between Stoicism and Epicureanism. The one flattered its pride, the other gratified its sensuality; the one was in accordance with the original national character, the other with its later decay and corruption. Both ultimately led to atheism and despair—the one, by turning all higher aspirations selfward, the other, by quenching them in the enjoyment of the moment; the one, by making the extinction of all feeling and self-deification, the other, the indulgence of every passion and the worship of matter, its ideal.”
    FACC 23.1

    Lastly, from the same chapter from which the above is taken, we quote the following:—
    “Rome tolerated, and, indeed, incorporated, all national rites. But among the populace, religion had degenerated into abject superstition. In the East, much of it consisted of the vilest rites; while, among the philosophers, all religions were considered equally false or equally true—the outcome of ignorance, or else the unconscious modifications of some one fundamental thought. The only religion on which the State insisted was the deification and worship of the emperor. These apotheoses attained almost incredible development. Soon not only the emperors, but their wives, paramours, children, and the creatures of their vilest lusts, were deified; nay, any private person might attain that distinction, if the survivors possessed sufficient means. Mingled with all this was an increasing amount of superstition—by which term some understood the worship of foreign gods, the most part the existence of fear in religion. The ancient Roman religion had long given place to foreign rites, the more mysterious and unintelligible the more enticing. It was thus that Judaism made its converts in Rome; its chief recommendation with many being its contrast to the old, and the unknown possibilities which its seemingly incredible doctrines opened. Among the most repulsive symptoms of the general religious decay may be reckoned prayers for the death of a rich relative, or even for the satisfaction of unnatural lusts, along with horrible blasphemies when such prayers remained unanswered. We may here contrast the spirit of the Old and New Testaments with such sentiments as this, on the tomb of a child: ‘To the unjust gods who robbed me of life;’ or on that of a girl of twenty: ‘I lift up my hands against the god who took me away, innocent as I am.’
    FACC 24.1

    “It would be unsavory to describe how far the worship of indecency was carried; how public morals were corrupted by the mimic representations of everything that was vile, and even by the pandering of a corrupt art. The personation of gods, oracles, divination, dreams, astrology, magic, necromancy, and theurgy, 1In a foot-note Dr. Edersheim says:—
    “A work has been preserved in which formal instructions are given, how temples and altars are to be constructed in order to produce false miracles, and by what means impostures of this kind may be successfully practiced. (Comp. “The Pneumatics of Hero,” translated by B. Woodcroft.) The worst was, that this kind of imposture on the ignorant populace was openly approved by the educated. (Dollinger, p. 647.)”
    This will serve to explain many Roman Catholic miracles. The pagan temples that in the time of Constantine fell into the hands of Christians, were used as churches, and the old places of worship must have been, to the new converts, very suggestive of old forms of worship.
    all contributed to the general decay. It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible, even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description.”
    FACC 25.1

    The picture is not a pleasant one, yet it but faintly represents the moral condition of the world when Christ commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel. We say the “moral condition of the world,” because the whole world was at that time essentially heathen. A comparatively small number of Jews formed the only exception, and the greater part of them had been corrupted by the speculations of heathen philosophers. The twenty-third chapter of Matthew shows that the Jews, as a class, were but little, if any, better than the Gentiles whom they despised. It was from this state of degradation that the gospel essayed to lift men; from people addicted to such practices, the early Christian churches were formed. When we consider this, instead of wondering at the heresies that crept into the church, and the disorderly conduct that was sometimes tolerated even in the apostolic churches (see 1 Corinthians 5:1, 2), we are amazed at the heights of piety to which many attained. The fact that even among that corrupt mass thousands were found who would give, not only their property, but themselves also for the advancement of the cause of truth and holiness, is a wonderful monument to the regenerating power of Christianity.FACC 25.2

    But great changes are not made instantaneously. Even though men are converted, they need instruction, since they are then but babes in the truth; and this fact shows that old habits of thought and practice cannot at once be entirely forgotten. We do not mean to intimate that the converted man has any license to sin, or any excuse for it; but pardon for sins is not sanctification; the one who has been pardoned is not perfect, but is to “go on to perfection;” and he still needs an advocate with the Father, that his imperfections may still be pardoned and overcome. Now men are always tempted on the side of their natural inclinations; if the converted man gives way to temptation, it will be his old sins that he will commit; and when, as is too often the case, a man joins the church without having been thoroughly converted, of course the old habits will continue unchanged.FACC 26.1

    Let the student of church history remember this, and at the same time bear in mind what has been quoted concerning the moral condition of the people among whom the gospel gained its victories, and it will throw light on many phases of professed Christianity. It will also prevent him from attaching too much importance to the precepts and practices of even the foremost of those in the Christian church who had been brought up in heathenism. He will always compare every act or saying of those men with the Bible, to see to what extent their early training was allowed to bias their course.FACC 27.1

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