Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3, by Edward Gibbon, , at sacred-texts.com
The filial piety of the emperors themselves engaged them to proceed, with some caution and tenderness, in the reformation of the eternal city. Those absolute monarchs acted with less regard to the prejudices of the provincials. The pious labor which had been suspended near twenty years since the death of Constantius, 24 was vigorously resumed, and finally accomplished, by the zeal of Theodosius. Whilst that warlike prince yet struggled with the Goths, not for the glory, but for the safety, of the republic, he ventured to offend a considerable party of his subjects, by some acts which might perhaps secure the protection of Heaven, but which must seem rash and unseasonable in the eye of human prudence. The success of his first experiments against the Pagans encouraged the pious emperor to reiterate and enforce his edicts of proscription: the same laws which had been originally published in the provinces of the East, were applied, after the defeat of Maximus, to the whole extent of the Western empire; and every victory of the orthodox Theodosius contributed to the triumph of the Christian and Catholic faith. 25 He attacked superstition in her most vital part, by prohibiting the use of sacrifices, which he declared to be criminal as well as infamous; and if the terms of his edicts more strictly condemned the impious curiosity which examined the entrails of the victim, 26 every subsequent explanation tended to involve in the same guilt the general practice of immolation, which essentially constituted the religion of the Pagans. As the temples had been erected for the purpose of sacrifice, it was the duty of a benevolent prince to remove from his subjects the dangerous temptation of offending against the laws which he had enacted. A special commission was granted to Cynegius, the Praetorian praefect of the East, and afterwards to the counts Jovius and Gaudentius, two officers of distinguished rank in the West; by which they were directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of idolatry, to abolish the privileges of the priests, and to confiscate the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the church, or of the army. 27 Here the desolation might have stopped: and the naked edifices, which were no longer employed in the service of idolatry, might have been protected from the destructive rage of fanaticism. Many of those temples were the most splendid and beautiful monuments of Grecian architecture; and the emperor himself was interested not to deface the splendor of his own cities, or to diminish the value of his own possessions. Those stately edifices might be suffered to remain, as so many lasting trophies of the victory of Christ. In the decline of the arts they might be usefully converted into magazines, manufactures, or places of public assembly: and perhaps, when the walls of the temple had been sufficiently purified by holy rites, the worship of the true Deity might be allowed to expiate the ancient guilt of idolatry. But as long as they subsisted, the Pagans fondly cherished the secret hope, that an auspicious revolution, a second Julian, might again restore the altars of the gods: and the earnestness with which they addressed their unavailing prayers to the throne, 28 increased the zeal of the Christian reformers to extirpate, without mercy, the root of superstition. The laws of the emperors exhibit some symptoms of a milder disposition: 29 but their cold and languid efforts were insufficient to stem the torrent of enthusiasm and rapine, which was conducted, or rather impelled, by the spiritual rulers of the church. In Gaul, the holy Martin, bishop of Tours, 30 marched at the head of his faithful monks to destroy the idols, the temples, and the consecrated trees of his extensive diocese; and, in the execution of this arduous task, the prudent reader will judge whether Martin was supported by the aid of miraculous powers, or of carnal weapons. In Syria, the divine and excellent Marcellus, 31 as he is styled by Theodoret, a bishop animated with apostolic fervor, resolved to level with the ground the stately temples within the diocese of Apamea. His attack was resisted by the skill and solidity with which the temple of Jupiter had been constructed. The building was seated on an eminence: on each of the four sides, the lofty roof was supported by fifteen massy columns, sixteen feet in circumference; and the large stone, of which they were composed, were firmly cemented with lead and iron. The force of the strongest and sharpest tools had been tried without effect. It was found necessary to undermine the foundations of the columns, which fell down as soon as the temporary wooden props had been consumed with fire; and the difficulties of the enterprise are described under the allegory of a black daemon, who retarded, though he could not defeat, the operations of the Christian engineers. Elated with victory, Marcellus took the field in person against the powers of darkness; a numerous troop of soldiers and gladiators marched under the episcopal banner, and he successively attacked the villages and country temples of the diocese of Apamea. Whenever any resistance or danger was apprehended, the champion of the faith, whose lameness would not allow him either to fight or fly, placed himself at a convenient distance, beyond the reach of darts. But this prudence was the occasion of his death: he was surprised and slain by a body of exasperated rustics; and the synod of the province pronounced, without hesitation, that the holy Marcellus had sacrificed his life in the cause of God. In the support of this cause, the monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence. They deserved the enmity of the Pagans; and some of them might deserve the reproaches of avarice and intemperance; of avarice, which they gratified with holy plunder, and of intemperance, which they indulged at the expense of the people, who foolishly admired their tattered garments, loud psalmody, and artificial paleness. 32 A small number of temples was protected by the fears, the venality, the taste, or the prudence, of the civil and ecclesiastical governors. The temple of the Celestial Venus at Carthage, whose sacred precincts formed a circumference of two miles, was judiciously converted into a Christian church; 33 and a similar consecration has preserved inviolate the majestic dome of the Pantheon at Rome. 34 But in almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority, and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those Barbarians, who alone had time and inclination to execute such laborious destruction.
In this wide and various prospect of devastation, the spectator may distinguish the ruins of the temple of Serapis, at Alexandria. 35 Serapis does not appear to have been one of the native gods, or monsters, who sprung from the fruitful soil of superstitious Egypt. 36 The first of the Ptolemies had been commanded, by a dream, to import the mysterious stranger from the coast of Pontus, where he had been long adored by the inhabitants of Sinope; but his attributes and his reign were so imperfectly understood, that it became a subject of dispute, whether he represented the bright orb of day, or the gloomy monarch of the subterraneous regions. 37 The Egyptians, who were obstinately devoted to the religion of their fathers, refused to admit this foreign deity within the walls of their cities. 38 But the obsequious priests, who were seduced by the liberality of the Ptolemies, submitted, without resistance, to the power of the god of Pontus: an honorable and domestic genealogy was provided; and this fortunate usurper was introduced into the throne and bed of Osiris, 39 the husband of Isis, and the celestial monarch of Egypt. Alexandria, which claimed his peculiar protection, gloried in the name of the city of Serapis. His temple, 40 which rivalled the pride and magnificence of the Capitol, was erected on the spacious summit of an artificial mount, raised one hundred steps above the level of the adjacent parts of the city; and the interior cavity was strongly supported by arches, and distributed into vaults and subterraneous apartments. The consecrated buildings were surrounded by a quadrangular portico; the stately halls, and exquisite statues, displayed the triumph of the arts; and the treasures of ancient learning were preserved in the famous Alexandrian library, which had arisen with new splendor from its ashes. 41 After the edicts of Theodosius had severely prohibited the sacrifices of the Pagans, they were still tolerated in the city and temple of Serapis; and this singular indulgence was imprudently ascribed to the superstitious terrors of the Christians themselves; as if they had feared to abolish those ancient rites, which could alone secure the inundations of the Nile, the harvests of Egypt, and the subsistence of Constantinople. 42
At that time 43 the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria was filled by Theophilus, 44 the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood. His pious indignation was excited by the honors of Serapis; and the insults which he offered to an ancient temple of Bacchus, *_0006 convinced the Pagans that he meditated a more important and dangerous enterprise. In the tumultuous capital of Egypt, the slightest provocation was sufficient to inflame a civil war. The votaries of Serapis, whose strength and numbers were much inferior to those of their antagonists, rose in arms at the instigation of the philosopher Olympius, 45 who exhorted them to die in the defence of the altars of the gods. These Pagan fanatics fortified themselves in the temple, or rather fortress, of Serapis; repelled the besiegers by daring sallies, and a resolute defence; and, by the inhuman cruelties which they exercised on their Christian prisoners, obtained the last consolation of despair. The efforts of the prudent magistrate were usefully exerted for the establishment of a truce, till the answer of Theodosius should determine the fate of Serapis. The two parties assembled, without arms, in the principal square; and the Imperial rescript was publicly read. But when a sentence of destruction against the idols of Alexandria was pronounced, the Christians set up a shout of joy and exultation, whilst the unfortunate Pagans, whose fury had given way to consternation, retired with hasty and silent steps, and eluded, by their flight or obscurity, the resentment of their enemies. Theophilus proceeded to demolish the temple of Serapis, without any other difficulties, than those which he found in the weight and solidity of the materials: but these obstacles proved so insuperable, that he was obliged to leave the foundations; and to content himself with reducing the edifice itself to a heap of rubbish, a part of which was soon afterwards cleared away, to make room for a church, erected in honor of the Christian martyrs. The valuable library of Alexandria was pillaged or destroyed; and near twenty years afterwards, the appearance of the empty shelves excited the regret and indignation of every spectator, whose mind was not totally darkened by religious prejudice. 46 The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have irretrievably perished, might surely have been excepted from the wreck of idolatry, for the amusement and instruction of succeeding ages; and either the zeal or the avarice of the archbishop, 47 might have been satiated with the rich spoils, which were the reward of his victory. While the images and vases of gold and silver were carefully melted, and those of a less valuable metal were contemptuously broken, and cast into the streets, Theophilus labored to expose the frauds and vices of the ministers of the idols; their dexterity in the management of the loadstone; their secret methods of introducing a human actor into a hollow statue; **_0006 and their scandalous abuse of the confidence of devout husbands and unsuspecting females. 48 Charges like these may seem to deserve some degree of credit, as they are not repugnant to the crafty and interested spirit of superstition. But the same spirit is equally prone to the base practice of insulting and calumniating a fallen enemy; and our belief is naturally checked by the reflection, that it is much less difficult to invent a fictitious story, than to support a practical fraud. The colossal statue of Serapis 49 was involved in the ruin of his temple and religion. A great number of plates of different metals, artificially joined together, composed the majestic figure of the deity, who touched on either side the walls of the sanctuary. The aspect of Serapis, his sitting posture, and the sceptre, which he bore in his left hand, were extremely similar to the ordinary representations of Jupiter. He was distinguished from Jupiter by the basket, or bushel, which was placed on his head; and by the emblematic monster which he held in his right hand; the head and body of a serpent branching into three tails, which were again terminated by the triple heads of a dog, a lion, and a wolf. It was confidently affirmed, that if any impious hand should dare to violate the majesty of the god, the heavens and the earth would instantly return to their original chaos. An intrepid soldier, animated by zeal, and armed with a weighty battle-axe, ascended the ladder; and even the Christian multitude expected, with some anxiety, the event of the combat. 50 He aimed a vigorous stroke against the cheek of Serapis; the cheek fell to the ground; the thunder was still silent, and both the heavens and the earth continued to preserve their accustomed order and tranquillity. The victorious soldier repeated his blows: the huge idol was overthrown, and broken in pieces; and the limbs of Serapis were ignominiously dragged through the streets of Alexandria. His mangled carcass was burnt in the Amphitheatre, amidst the shouts of the populace; and many persons attributed their conversion to this discovery of the impotence of their tutelar deity. The popular modes of religion, that propose any visible and material objects of worship, have the advantage of adapting and familiarizing themselves to the senses of mankind: but this advantage is counterbalanced by the various and inevitable accidents to which the faith of the idolater is exposed. It is scarcely possible, that, in every disposition of mind, he should preserve his implicit reverence for the idols, or the relics, which the naked eye, and the profane hand, are unable to distinguish from the most common productions of art or nature; and if, in the hour of danger, their secret and miraculous virtue does not operate for their own preservation, he scorns the vain apologies of his priests, and justly derides the object, and the folly, of his superstitious attachment. 51 After the fall of Serapis, some hopes were still entertained by the Pagans, that the Nile would refuse his annual supply to the impious masters of Egypt; and the extraordinary delay of the inundation seemed to announce the displeasure of the river-god. But this delay was soon compensated by the rapid swell of the waters. They suddenly rose to such an unusual height, as to comfort the discontented party with the pleasing expectation of a deluge; till the peaceful river again subsided to the well-known and fertilizing level of sixteen cubits, or about thirty English feet. 52
The temples of the Roman empire were deserted, or destroyed; but the ingenious superstition of the Pagans still attempted to elude the laws of Theodosius, by which all sacrifices had been severely prohibited. The inhabitants of the country, whose conduct was less opposed to the eye of malicious curiosity, disguised their religious, under the appearance of convivial, meetings. On the days of solemn festivals, they assembled in great numbers under the spreading shade of some consecrated trees; sheep and oxen were slaughtered and roasted; and this rural entertainment was sanctified by the use of incense, and by the hymns which were sung in honor of the gods. But it was alleged, that, as no part of the animal was made a burnt-offering, as no altar was provided to receive the blood, and as the previous oblation of salt cakes, and the concluding ceremony of libations, were carefully omitted, these festal meetings did not involve the guests in the guilt, or penalty, of an illegal sacrifice. 53 Whatever might be the truth of the facts, or the merit of the distinction, 54 these vain pretences were swept away by the last edict of Theodosius, which inflicted a deadly wound on the superstition of the Pagans. 55 *_0007 This prohibitory law is expressed in the most absolute and comprehensive terms. "It is our will and pleasure," says the emperor, "that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in any city or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim." The act of sacrificing, and the practice of divination by the entrails of the victim, are declared (without any regard to the object of the inquiry) a crime of high treason against the state, which can be expiated only by the death of the guilty. The rites of Pagan superstition, which might seem less bloody and atrocious, are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth and honor of religion; luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and libations of wine, are specially enumerated and condemned; and the harmless claims of the domestic genius, of the household gods, are included in this rigorous proscription. The use of any of these profane and illegal ceremonies, subjects the offender to the forfeiture of the house or estate, where they have been performed; and if he has artfully chosen the property of another for the scene of his impiety, he is compelled to discharge, without delay, a heavy fine of twenty-five pounds of gold, or more than one thousand pounds sterling. A fine, not less considerable, is imposed on the connivance of the secret enemies of religion, who shall neglect the duty of their respective stations, either to reveal, or to punish, the guilt of idolatry. Such was the persecuting spirit of the laws of Theodosius, which were repeatedly enforced by his sons and grandsons, with the loud and unanimous applause of the Christian world. 56
24 Libanius (Orat. pro Templis, p. 10, Genev. 1634, published by James Godefroy, and now extremely scarce) accuses Valentinian and Valens of prohibiting sacrifices. Some partial order may have been issued by the Eastern emperor; but the idea of any general law is contradicted by the silence of the Code, and the evidence of ecclesiastical history. Note: See in Reiske's edition of Libanius, tom. ii. p. 155. Sacrific was prohibited by Valens, but not the offering of incense. - M.
25 See his laws in the Theodosian Code, l. xvi. tit. x. leg. 7 - 11.
26 Homer's sacrifices are not accompanied with any inquisition of entrails, (see Feithius, Antiquitat. Homer. l. i. c. 10, 16.) The Tuscans, who produced the first Haruspices, subdued both the Greeks and the Romans, (Cicero de Divinatione, ii. 23.)
27 Zosimus, l. iv. p. 245, 249. Theodoret. l. v. c. 21. Idatius in Chron. Prosper. Aquitan. l. iii. c. 38, apud Baronium, Annal. Eccles. A.D. 389, No. 52. Libanius (pro Templis, p. 10) labors to prove that the commands of Theodosius were not direct and positive.
Note: Libanius appears to be the best authority for the East, where, under Theodosius, the work of devastation was carried on with very different degrees of violence, according to the temper of the local authorities and of the clergy; and more especially the neighborhood of the more fanatican monks. Neander well observes, that the prohibition of sacrifice would be easily misinterpreted into an authority for the destruction of the buildings in which sacrifices were performed. (Geschichte der Christlichen religion ii. p. 156.) An abuse of this kind led to this remarkable oration of Libanius. Neander, however, justly doubts whether this bold vindication or at least exculpation, of Paganism was ever delivered before, or even placed in the hands of the Christian emperor. - M.
28 Cod. Theodos, l. xvi. tit. x. leg. 8, 18. There is room to believe, that this temple of Edessa, which Theodosius wished to save for civil uses, was soon afterwards a heap of ruins, (Libanius pro Templis, p. 26, 27, and Godefroy's notes, p. 59.)
29 See this curious oration of Libanius pro Templis, pronounced, or rather composed, about the year 390. I have consulted, with advantage, Dr. Lardner's version and remarks, (Heathen Testimonies, vol. iv. p. 135 - 163.)
30 See the Life of Martin by Sulpicius Severus, c. 9 - 14. The saint once mistook (as Don Quixote might have done) a harmless funeral for an idolatrous procession, and imprudently committed a miracle.
31 Compare Sozomen, (l. vii. c. 15) with Theodoret, (l. v. c. 21.) Between them, they relate the crusade and death of Marcellus.
32 Libanius, pro Templis, p. 10 - 13. He rails at these black- garbed men, the Christian monks, who eat more than elephants. Poor elephants! they are temperate animals.
33 Prosper. Aquitan. l. iii. c. 38, apud Baronium; Annal. Eccles. A.D. 389, No. 58, &c. The temple had been shut some time, and the access to it was overgrown with brambles.
34 Donatus, Roma Antiqua et Nova, l. iv. c. 4, p. 468. This consecration was performed by Pope Boniface IV. I am ignorant of the favorable circumstances which had preserved the Pantheon above two hundred years after the reign of Theodosius.
35 Sophronius composed a recent and separate history, (Jerom, in Script. Eccles. tom. i. p. 303,) which has furnished materials to Socrates, (l. v. c. 16.) Theodoret, (l. v. c. 22,) and Rufinus, (l. ii. c. 22.) Yet the last, who had been at Alexandria before and after the event, may deserve the credit of an original witness.
36 Gerard Vossius (Opera, tom. v. p. 80, and de Idoloaltria, l. i. c. 29) strives to support the strange notion of the Fathers; that the patriarch Joseph was adored in Egypt, as the bull Apis, and the god Serapis.
Note: Consult du Dieu Serapis et son Origine, par J D. Guigniaut, (the translator of Creuzer's Symbolique,) Paris, 1828; and in the fifth volume of Bournouf's translation of Tacitus. - M.
37 Origo dei nondum nostris celebrata. Aegyptiorum antistites sic memorant, &c., Tacit. Hist. iv. 83. The Greeks, who had travelled into Egypt, were alike ignorant of this new deity.
38 Macrobius, Saturnal, l. i. c. 7. Such a living fact decisively proves his foreign extraction.
39 At Rome, Isis and Serapis were united in the same temple. The precedency which the queen assumed, may seem to betray her unequal alliance with the stranger of Pontus. But the superiority of the female sex was established in Egypt as a civil and religious institution, (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. i. p. 31, edit. Wesseling,) and the same order is observed in Plutarch's Treatise of Isis and Osiris; whom he identifies with Serapis.
40 Ammianus, (xxii. 16.) The Expositio totius Mundi, (p. 8, in Hudson's Geograph. Minor. tom. iii.,) and Rufinus, (l. ii. c. 22,) celebrate the Serapeum, as one of the wonders of the world.
41 See Memoires de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, tom. ix. p. 397 - 416. The old library of the Ptolemies was totally consumed in Caesar's Alexandrian war. Marc Antony gave the whole collection of Pergamus (200,000 volumes) to Cleopatra, as the foundation of the new library of Alexandria.
42 Libanius (pro Templis, p. 21) indiscreetly provokes his Christian masters by this insulting remark.
43 We may choose between the date of Marcellinus (A.D. 389) or that of Prosper, ( A.D. 391.) Tillemont (Hist. des Emp. tom. v. p. 310, 756) prefers the former, and Pagi the latter.
44 Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xi. p. 441 - 500. The ambiguous situation of Theophilus - a saint, as the friend of Jerom a devil, as the enemy of Chrysostom - produces a sort of impartiality; yet, upon the whole, the balance is justly inclined against him.
*_0006 No doubt a temple of Osiris. St. Martin, iv 398 - M.
45 Lardner (Heathen Testimonies, vol. iv. p. 411) has alleged beautiful passage from Suidas, or rather from Damascius, which show the devout and virtuous Olympius, not in the light of a warrior, but of a prophet.
46 Nos vidimus armaria librorum, quibus direptis, exinanita ea a nostris hominibus, nostris temporibus memorant. Orosius, l. vi. c. 15, p. 421, edit. Havercamp. Though a bigot, and a controversial writer. Orosius seems to blush.
47 Eunapius, in the Lives of Antoninus and Aedesius, execrates the sacrilegious rapine of Theophilus. Tillemont (Mem. Eccles. tom. xiii. p. 453) quotes an epistle of Isidore of Pelusium, which reproaches the primate with the idolatrous worship of gold, the auri sacra fames.
**_0006 An English traveller, Mr. Wilkinson, has discovered the secret of the vocal Memnon. There was a cavity in which a person was concealed, and struck a stone, which gave a ringing sound like brass. The Arabs, who stood below when Mr. Wilkinson performed the miracle, described sound just as the author of the epigram. - M.
48 Rufinus names the priest of Saturn, who, in the character of the god, familiarly conversed with many pious ladies of quality, till he betrayed himself, in a moment of transport, when he could not disguise the tone of his voice. The authentic and impartial narrative of Aeschines, (see Bayle, Dictionnaire Critique, Scamandre,) and the adventure of Mudus, (Joseph. Antiquitat. Judaic. l. xviii. c. 3, p. 877 edit. Havercamp,) may prove that such amorous frauds have been practised with success.
49 See the images of Serapis, in Montfaucon, (tom. ii. p. 297:) but the description of Macrobius (Saturnal. l. i. c. 20) is much more picturesque and satisfactory.
50 Sed fortes tremuere manus, motique verenda Majestate loci, si robora sacra ferirent In sua credebant redituras membra secures.
(Lucan. iii. 429.) "Is it true," (said Augustus to a veteran of Italy, at whose house he supped) "that the man who gave the first blow to the golden statue of Anaitis, was instantly deprived of his eyes, and of his life?" - "I was that man, (replied the clear-sighted veteran,) and you now sup on one of the legs of the goddess." (Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 24)
51 The history of the reformation affords frequent examples of the sudden change from superstition to contempt.
52 Sozomen, l. vii. c. 20. I have supplied the measure. The same standard, of the inundation, and consequently of the cubit, has uniformly subsisted since the time of Herodotus. See Freret, in the Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xvi. p. 344 - 353. Greaves's Miscellaneous Works, vol. i. p. 233. The Egyptian cubit is about twenty- two inches of the English measure.
Note: Compare Wilkinson's Thebes and Egypt, p. 313. - M.
53 Libanius (pro Templis, p. 15, 16, 17) pleads their cause with gentle and insinuating rhetoric. From the earliest age, such feasts had enlivened the country: and those of Bacchus (Georgic. ii. 380) had produced the theatre of Athens. See Godefroy, ad loc. Liban. and Codex Theodos. tom. vi. p. 284.
54 Honorius tolerated these rustic festivals, (A.D. 399.) "Absque ullo sacrificio, atque ulla superstitione damnabili." But nine years afterwards he found it necessary to reiterate and enforce the same proviso, (Codex Theodos. l. xvi. tit. x. leg. 17, 19.)
55 Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. x. leg. 12. Jortin (Remarks on Eccles. History, vol. iv. p. 134) censures, with becoming asperity, the style and sentiments of this intolerant law.
*_0007 Paganism maintained its ground for a considerable time in the rural districts. Endelechius, a poet who lived at the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of the cross as Signum quod perhibent esse crucis Dei, Magnis qui colitur solus inurbibus.
In the middle of the same century, Maximus, bishop of Turin, writes against the heathen deities as if their worship was still in full vigor in the neighborhood of his city. Augustine complains of the encouragement of the Pagan rites by heathen landowners; and Zeno of Verona, still later, reproves the apathy of the Christian proprietors in conniving at this abuse. (Compare Neander, ii. p. 169.) M. Beugnot shows that this was the case throughout the north and centre of Italy and in Sicily. But neither of these authors has adverted to one fact, which must have tended greatly to retard the progress of Christianity in these quarters. It was still chiefly a slave population which cultivated the soil; and however, in the towns, the better class of Christians might be eager to communicate "the blessed liberty of the gospel" to this class of mankind; however their condition could not but be silently ameliorated by the humanizing influence of Christianity; yet, on the whole, no doubt the servile class would be the least fitted to receive the gospel; and its general propagation among them would be embarrassed by many peculiar difficulties. The rural population was probably not entirely converted before the general establishment of the monastic institutions. Compare Quarterly Review of Beugnot. vol lvii. p. 52 - M.
56 Such a charge should not be lightly made; but it may surely be justified by the authority of St. Augustin, who thus addresses the Donatists: "Quis nostrum, quis vestrum non laudat leges ab Imperatoribus datas adversus sacrificia Paganorum? Et certe longe ibi poera severior constituta est; illius quippe impietatis capitale supplicium est." Epist. xciii. No. 10, quoted by Le Clerc, (Bibliotheque Choisie, tom. viii. p. 277,) who adds some judicious reflections on the intolerance of the victorious Christians. Note: Yet Augustine, with laudable inconsistency, disapproved of the forcible demolition of the temples. "Let us first extirpate the idolatry of the hearts of the heathen, and they will either themselves invite us or anticipate us in the execution of this good work," tom. v. p. 62. Compare Neander, ii. 169, and, in p. 155, a beautiful passage from Chrysostom against all violent means of propagating Christianity. - M.