INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTER TO A YOUNG WIDOW.
The date of the following letter can be determined within very narrow limits. It contains a reference (c. 5) to the defeat and death of the Emperor Valens in the battle with the Goths at Hadrianople, in a.d. 378, as a recent event. The Emperor who is described as having incessantly engaged in war ever since his accession (c. 4) must be Theodosius, who succeeded Valens, and as the Goths are said to be still overrunning large regions with impunity, and insolently mocking the timidity of the imperial troops (ib.) the letter must have been written prior to the crushing defeat which Theodosius inflicted on them in 382. The whole epistle is deeply tinged with that profound sense of the unhappiness and instability of human life which the moral corruption of society and recent calamities of the empire impressed with peculiar force on the minds of men; producing too often amongst Pagans either a cynical gloom or reckless indifference, but leading Christians to cling more closely and earnestly to the hopes and consolations of the Gospel.