The Chosen People
by Charlotte Mary Yonge
LESSON I. THE
LESSON II. THE
LESSON IV. THE
LESSON V. ISRAEL
LESSON VI. THE
KINGDOM OF ALL
LESSON VII. THE
LESSON VIII. THE
LESSON X. THE
LESSON XIII. THE
LESSON XIV. THE
LESSON XVI. THE
GREEK KINGS OF
LESSON XVII. THE
LESSON XIX. THE
LESSON XX. THE
LESSON XXI. THE
LESSON XXII. THE
APOSTLE OF THE
THE FALL OF
LESSON XXIV. THE
LESSON XXV. THE
LESSON XXVI. THE
LESSON XXX. THE
LESSON XXXI. THE
THE SPREAD OF
LESSON I. 1. In
what state was
the Earth when
LESSON II. 1.
Whom did God
the sons of
LESSON III. 1.
Who were the
LESSON IV. 1.
Moses lead into
LESSON V. 1. In
what year did
LESSON VI. 1.
When did the
LESSON VII. 1.
How did Rehoboam
bring about the
of the sentence
LESSON VIII. 1.
Where had the
LESSON IX. 1.
Who founded the
LESSON X. 1.
What was the
LESSON XI. 1.
Who were the
LESSON XII. 1.
What was the
power which was
to overcome the
LESSON XIII. 1.
How many Jews
LESSON XIV. 1.
Who is Ahasuerus
supposed to have
LESSON XV. 1.
Who were the
LESSON XVI. 1.
How was the
vii. 6.—viii. 8.
LESSON XVII. 1.
LESSON XVIII. 1.
were raised up
for the Jews?
LESSON XIX. 1.
Who was the
LESSON XX. 1. In
what year of the
LESSON XXI. 1.
fulfilled by the
LESSON XXII. 1.
How had St. Paul
LESSON XXIII. 1.
How had the
LESSON XXIV. 1.
What were the
LESSON XXV. 1.
How had our Lord
x. 16, 17.—John,
LESSON XXVI. 1.
Who was the
LESSON XXVII. 1.
Who were the two
1. How had the
LESSON XXIX. 1.
prevailed in the
LESSON XXX. 1.
What was the
danger of the
LESSON XXXI. 1.
How many horns
had sprung up in
of the Roman
LESSON XXXII. 1.
How had the
Services of the
Church come to
be in an unknown
LESSON XXXIV. 1.
The Chosen People
A Compendium Of Sacred And Church History For School-Children
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE
A COMPENDIUM OF SACRED AND CHURCH HISTORY FOR SCHOOL-CHILDREN.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE.”
“God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past
unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto
us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things.”—Heb.
“Yes; so it was ere Jesus came—
Alternate then His Altar flame
Blazed up and died away,
And Silence took her torn with Song,
And Solitude with the fair throng
That owned the festal day;
For in earth's daily circuit then
Only one border
Reflected to the Seraphs' ken,
Heaven's light and order.
But now to the revolving sphere
We point and Say, No desert here,
No waste so dark and lone
But to the hour of sacrifice
Comes daily in its turn, and lies
In light beneath the Throne.
Each point of time, from morn till eve.
From eve to morning,
The shrine doth from the Spouse receive
Praise and adorning.”—Lyra Innocentium.
In drawing up this little book, at the request of several friends,
the Author has been chiefly guided by experience of what children
require to be told, in order to come to an intelligent perception of
the scope of the Scripture narrative treated historically. Since a
general view can hardly be obtained without brevity, many events have
been omitted in the earlier part, and those only touched upon which
have a peculiar significance in tracing the gradual preparation for the
work of Redemption; and though one great object has been the
illustration of Prophecy, the course of types has been passed over,
lest the plain narrative should be confused, since types are rather
subjects of devotional contemplation than of history, and they should
be perfectly comprehended as facts, before being treated as
The next portion is little save an abridgement from Prideaux's
Connexion, taken in connection with the conclusions drawn by modern
discoveries, as detailed in Mr. G. Rawlinson's valuable edition of
Herodotus. It is hoped that by thus filling up the interval between the
New and Old Testaments, that children may thus be fairly able to
understand what they read in the Gospels of the Roman dominion, the
relation to Herod, the mutual hatred of the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the enmity to the Samaritans.
The concluding lessons are offered with great diffidence, and with
many doubts whether the absence of detail may not prevent them from
being easily remembered; but it has been felt important that the
connection of the actual Church with that of the Apostles and Martyrs,
should be made evident to the general mind, and the present condition
of the Church accounted for. The choice of subjects has been very
difficult; but it is hoped that those selected may be those most
needful to be known as evidence that our present Church has every claim
to the promise of Him Who will abide with her for ever.
If older and more critical persons than those for whom the little
work is intended should cast an eye over it, the author hopes that they
will bear in mind how the need of being both brief and clear is apt to
render statements apparently bolder, and sometimes harsher, than where
there is room for qualification or argument; and that they will not
always accuse the work of unthinking boldness of assertion, where the
softening is omitted for fear both of wearying and perplexing the young
The chronology, for the sake of the convenience of teachers and
scholars, is that of the margin of our Bibles.
The questions at the end are chiefly intended to direct the mind of
the learner to the point of each lesson. It will be perceived that the
answers must he prepared as well from the Bible as from the book; and
in most cases the teacher will in use have to multiply, and perhaps to
simplify them. One of their especial objects has been to show the ever
brightening stream of prophecy, and afterwards, its accomplishment
alike with regard to heathen nations, to the history of the Jews, of
the Church, and, above all, to the Life of our Blessed Lord; and it is
hoped that those who examine into them, cannot fail to be struck with
the full and perfect accordance of the beginning with the end; and if
they learn no other lesson, will have it impressed on them, how “the
counsel of the Lord endureth for ever.”
Two tables have been added for the convenience of the scholar, one
giving the contemporary kings and prophets, the other the course of
historical chapters, with, as far as possible, the prophetical,
didactic, or poetical books, of the same date ranged in parallel lines.
It is hoped that these may be found useful in arranging lessons for
upper classes or pupil teachers.
May 20th, 1859.
TABLE OF THE BOOKS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE ACCORDING TO DATE.
BOOKS. PROPHETIC AND POETICAL BOOKS.
Psalm lxxxviii. by Heman, the Ezrahite, (See
1 Chron. ii. 6)
1451 Numbers Psalm xc. and (perhaps) xci
1056 1 Samuel Psalms, certainly vii, xi, xvi, xvii, xxii, xxxi,
xxxiv, lvi, liv, lii, cix, xxxv, lvii, lviii,
cxliii, cxl, cxli, and many more
1056 1 Chronicles Psalms, certainly ii, vi, ix, xx,
1023 Psalms iii, iv, lv, lxii,
lxx, lxxi, cxliii, cxliv, all on
occasion of the war with Absalom
1017 2 Samuel 1015 from chap. ii xxi, xxiv, lxviii, xxxii,
xxxviii, xxxix, xl, li,
xxxii, ci, ciii.
1017 Psalms xviii, xxx, many more
Psalm xxviii (other Psalms
of the elder Asaph) Chron.
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE.
LESSON I. THE PROMISE.
“The creature was made subject unto vanity, not willingly, but by
reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope.”—Rom. viii.
When the earth first came from the hand of God, it was “very good,”
and man, the best of all the beings it contained, was subjected to a
trial of obedience. The fallen angel gained the ear of the woman, and
led her to disobey, and to persuade her husband to do the same; and
that failure gave Satan power over the world, and over all Adam's
children, bringing sin and death upon the earth, and upon all, whether
man or brute, who dwelt therein.
Yet the merciful God would not give up all the creatures whom He had
made, to eternal destruction without a ray of hope, and even while
sentencing them to the punishment they had drawn on themselves, He held
out the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the head of
the serpent, the Devil; and they were taught by the sight of sacrifices
of animals, that the death of the innocent might yet atone for the sin
of the guilty; though these creatures were not of worth enough really
to bear the punishment for man.
Abel's offering of the lamb proved his faith, and thus was more
worthy than Cain's gift of the fruits of the earth. When Cain in his
envy slew his brother, he and his children were cast off by God, and
those of his younger brother, Seth, were accepted, until they joined
themselves to the ungodly daughters of Cain; and such sin prevailed,
that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of judgment at hand,
before he was taken up alive into Heaven. When eight hundred and nine
hundred years were the usual term of men's lives, and the race was in
full strength and freshness, there was time for mind and body to come
to great force; and we find that the chief inventions of man belong to
these sons of Cain—the dwelling in tents, workmanship in brass and
iron, and the use of musical instruments. On the other hand, the more
holy of the line of Seth handed on from one to the other the history of
the blessed days of Eden, and of God's promise, and lived upon hope and
Noah, whose father had been alive in the latter years of Adam's
life, was chosen from among the descendants of Seth, to be saved out of
the general ruin of the corrupt earth, and to carry on the promise. His
faith was first tried by the command to build the ark, though for one
hundred and twenty years all seemed secure, without any token of
judgment; and the disobedient refused to listen to his preaching. When
the time came, his own family of eight persons were alone found worthy
to be spared from the destruction, together with all the animals with
them preserved in the ark, two of each kind, and a sevenfold number of
those milder and purer animals which part the hoof and chew the cud,
and were already marked out as fit for sacrifice.
It was the year 2348 B.C. that Noah spent in floating upon the waste
of waters while every living thing was perishing round him, and
afterwards in seeing the floods return to their beds in oceans, lakes,
and rivers, which they shall never again overpass.
The ark first came aground on the mountain of Ararat, in Armenia, a
sacred spot to this day; and here God made His covenant with Noah,
renewing His first blessing to Adam, permitting the use of animal food;
promising that the course of nature should never be disturbed again
till the end of all things, and making the glorious tints of the
rainbow, which are produced by sunlight upon water, stand as the pledge
of this assurance. Of man He required abstinence from eating the blood
of animals, and from shedding the blood of man, putting, as it were, a
mark of sacredness upon life-blood, so as to lead the mind on to the
Blood hereafter to be shed.
Soon a choice was made among the sons of Noah. Ham mocked at his
father's infirmity, while his two brothers veiled it; and Noah was
therefore inspired to prophesy that Canaan, the son of the undutiful
Ham, should be accursed, and a servant of servants; that Shem should
especially belong to the Lord God, and that Japhet's posterity should
be enlarged, and should dwell in the tents of Shem. Thus Shem was
marked as the chosen, yet with hope that Japhet should share in his
It seems as if Ham had brought away some of the arts and habits of
the giant sons of Cain, for in all worldly prosperity his sons had the
advantage. In 2247 B. C. the sons of men banded themselves together to
build the Tower of Babel on the plain of Shinar, just below the hills
of Armenia, where the two great rivers Euphrates and Tigris make the
flats rich and fertile. For their presumption, God confounded their
speech, and the nations first were divided. Ham's children got all the
best regions; Nimrod, the child of his son Cush, kept Babel, built the
first city, and became the first king. Canaan's sons settled themselves
in that goodliest of all lands which bore his name; and Mizraim's
children obtained the rich and beautiful valley of the Nile, called
Egypt. All these were keen clever people, builders of cities,
cultivators of the land, weavers and embroiderers, earnest after
comfort and riches, and utterly forgetting, or grievously corrupting,
the worship of God. Others of the race seem to have wandered further
south, where the heat of the sun blackened their skins; and their
strong constitution, and dull meek temperament, marked them out to all
future generations as a prey to be treated like animals of burden, so
as to bear to the utmost the curse of Canaan.
Shem's sons, simpler than those of Ham, continued to live in tents
and watch their cattle, scattered about in the same plains, called from
the two great streams, Mesopotamia, or the land of rivers. Some
travelled westwards, and settling in China and India, became a rich and
wealthy people, but constantly losing more and more the recollection of
the truth; and some went on in time from isle to isle to the western
hemisphere—lands where no other foot should tread till the world
should be grown old.
Japhet's children seemed at first the least favoured, for no place,
save the cold dreary north, was found for most of them. Some few, the
children of Javan, found a home in the fair isles of the Mediterranean,
but the greater part were wild horsemen in Northern Asia and Europe.
This was a dark and dismal training, but it braced them so that in
future generations they proved to have far more force and spirit than
was to be found among the dwellers in milder climates.
LESSON II. THE PATRIARCHS.
“The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham.”—Acts, vii. 2.
Among the sons of Shem (called Hebrews after his descendant Heber,
who dwelt in Mesopotamia) was Abram, the good and faithful man, whom
God chose out to be the father of the people in whom He was going to
set His Light. In the year 1921, He tried Abram's faith by calling on
him to leave his home, and go into a land which he knew not, but which
should belong to his children after him—Abram, who had no child at
Yet he obeyed and believed, and was led into the beautiful hilly
land then held by the sons of Canaan, where he was a stranger,
wandering with his flocks and herds and servants from one green pasture
to another, without a loot of land to call his own. For showing his
faith by thus doing as he was commanded, Abram was rewarded by the
promise that in his Seed should all the families of the earth be
blessed; his name was changed to Abraham, which means a father of a
great multitude; and as a sign that he had entered into a covenant with
God, he was commanded to circumcise his children.
One son, Ishmael, had by this time been born to him of the bondmaid
Hagar; but the child of promise, Isaac, the son of his wife Sarah, was
not given till he was a hundred years old. Ishmael was cast out for
mocking at his half-brother, the heir of the promises; but in answer to
his father's prayers, he too became the father of a great nation,
namely the Arabs, who still live in the desert, with their tents, their
flocks, herds, and fine horses, much as Ishmael himself must have
lived. They are still circumcised, and honour Abraham as their father;
and with them are joined the Midianites and other tribes descended from
Abraham's last wife, Keturah.
Isaac alone was to inherit the promise, and it was renewed to him
and to his father, when their faith had been proved by their submission
to God's command, that Isaac should be offered as a burnt-offering upon
Mount Moriah, a sign of the Great Sacrifice long afterwards, when God
did indeed provide Himself a Lamb.
When Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah for a, burial-place, it
was in the full certainty that though he was now a stranger in the
land, it would be his children's home; and it was there that he and the
other patriarchs were buried after their long and faithful pilgrimage.
Isaac's wife, Rebekah, was fetched from Abraham's former home, in
Mesopotamia, that he might not be corrupted by marrying a Canaanite.
Between his two sons, Esau and Jacob, there was again a choice; for God
had prophesied that the elder should serve the younger, and Esau did
not value the birthright which would have made him heir to no lands
that would enrich himself, and to a far-off honour that he did not
understand. So despising the promises of God, he made his right over to
his brother for a little food, when he was hungry, and though he
repented with tears when it was too late, he could not win back what he
had once thrown away.
His revengeful anger when he found how he had been supplanted, made
Jacob flee to his mother's family in Mesopotamia, and there dwell for
many years, ere returning to Canaan with his large household, there to
live in the manner that had been ordained for the first heirs of the
promise. Esau went away to Mount Seir, to the south of the Promised
Land, and his descendants were called the Edomites, from his name,
meaning the Red; and so, too, the sea which washed their shores, took
the name of the Sea of Edom, or the Red Sea. They were also named
Kenites from his son Kenaz. Their country, afterwards called Idumea,
was full of rocks and precipices, and in these the Edomites hollowed
out caves for themselves, making them most beautiful, with pillars
supporting the roof within, and finely-carved entrances, cut with
borders, flowers, and scrolls, so lasting that the cities of Bosra and
Petra are still a wonder to travellers, though they have been empty and
deserted for centuries past. The Edomites did not at once lose the
knowledge of the true God; indeed, as many believe, of them was born
the prophet Job, whom Satan was permitted to try with every trouble he
could conjure up, so that his friends believed that such sufferings
could only be brought on him for some great sin; whereas he still
maintained that the ways of God were hidden, and gave utterance to one
of the clearest ancient prophecies of the Redeemer and the
Resurrection. At length God answered him from the whirlwind, and
proclaimed His greatness through His unsearchable works; and Job, for
his patience in the time of adversity, was restored to far more than
his former prosperity.
Jacob's name was changed to Israel, which meant a prince before God;
and his whole family were taken into the covenant, though the three
elder sons, for their crimes, forfeited the foremost places, which
passed to Judah and Joseph; and Levi was afterwards chosen as the tribe
set apart for the priesthood, the number twelve being made up by
reckoning Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, as heads of tribes,
like their uncles. Long ago, Abraham had been told that his seed should
sojourn in Egypt; and when the envious sons of Israel sold their
innocent brother Joseph, their sin was bringing about God's high
purpose. Joseph was inspired to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, which
foretold the famine; and when by-and-by his brothers came to buy the
corn that he had laid up, he made himself known, forgave them with all
his heart, and sent them to fetch his father to see him once more. Then
the whole family of Israel, seventy in number, besides their wives,
came and settled in the land of Goshen, about the year 1707, and were
there known by the name of Hebrews, after Heber, the great-grand-son of
Shem. There in Goshen, Jacob ended the days of his pilgrimage, desiring
his sons to carry his corpse back to the Cave of Machpelah, there to be
buried, and await their return when the time of promise should come. He
gave his blessing to all his sons, and was inspired to mark out Joseph
among them as the one whose children should have the choicest temporal
inheritance; but of the fourth son, he said, “The sceptre shall not
depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh
come.” Shiloh meant Him that should be sent, and Judah was thus marked
out to be the princely tribe, which was to have the rule until the Seed
LESSON III. EGYPT.
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of
Egypt.”—Hosea, xi. 1.
The country where the Israelites had taken up their abode, was the
valley watered by the great river Nile. There is nothing but desert,
wherever this river does not spread itself, for it never rains, and
there would be dreadful drought, if every year, when the snow melts
upon the mountains far south, where is the source of the stream, it did
not become so much swelled as to spread far beyond its banks, and
overflow all the flat space round it. Then as soon as the water
subsides, the hot sun upon the mud that it has left brings up most
beautiful grass, and fine crops of corn with seven or nine ears to one
stalk; grand fruits of all kinds, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers, flax
for weaving linen, and everything that a people can desire. Indeed, the
water of the river is so delicious, that it is said that those who have
once tasted it are always longing to drink it again.
The sons of Mizraim, son of Ham, who first found out this fertile
country, were a very clever race, and made the most of the riches of
the place. They made dykes and ditches to guide the floodings into
their fields and meadows; they cultivated the soil till it was one
beautiful garden; they wove their flax into fine linen; and they made
bricks of their soft clay, and hewed stone from the hills higher up the
river, so that their buildings have been the wonder of all ages since.
They had kings to rule them, and priests to guide their worship; but
these priests had very wrong and corrupt notions themselves, and let
the poor ignorant people believe even greater folly than they did
They thought that the great God lived among them in the shape of a
bull with one spot on his back like an eagle, and one on his tongue
like a beetle; and this creature they called Apis, and tended with the
utmost care. When he died they all went into mourning, and lamented
till a calf like him was found, and was brought home with the greatest
honour; and for his sake all cattle were sacred, and no one allowed to
kill them. Besides the good Power, they thought there was an evil one
as strong as the good, and they worshipped him likewise, to beg him to
do them no harm; so the dangerous crocodiles of the Nile were sacred,
and it was forbidden to put them to death. They had a dog-god and a
cat-goddess, and they honoured the beetle because they saw it rolling a
ball of earth in which to lay its eggs, and fancied it an emblem of
eternity; and thus all these creatures were consecrated, and when they
died were rolled up in fine linen and spices, just as the Egyptians
embalmed their own dead.
Mummies, as we call these embalmed Egyptian corpses, are often found
now, laid up in beautiful tombs, cut out in the rock, and painted in
colours still fresh with picture writing, called hieroglyphics, telling
in tokens all the history of the person whose body they contained. The
kings built tombs for themselves, like mountains, square at the bottom,
but each course of stones built within the last till they taper to a
point at the top. These are called pyramids, and have within them very
small narrow passages, leading to a small chamber, just large enough to
hold a king's coffin.
They had enormous idols hewn out of stone. The head of one, which
you may see in the British Museum, is far taller than the tallest man,
and yet the face is really handsome, and there are multitudes more,
both of them and of their temples, still remaining on the banks of the
Nile. The children of Israel, being chiefly shepherds, kept apart from
the Egyptians at first; but as time went on they learnt some of their
habits, and many of them had begun to worship their idols and forget
the truth, when their time of affliction came. The King of Egypt,
becoming afraid of having so numerous and rich a people settled in his
dominions, tried to keep them down by hard bondage and heavy labour. He
made them toil at his great buildings, and oppressed them in every
possible manner; and when he found that they still throve and
increased, he made the cruel decree, that every son who was born to
them should be cast into the river.
But man can do nothing against the will of God, and this murderous
ordinance proved the very means of causing one of these persecuted
Hebrew infants to be brought up in the palace of Pharaoh, and
instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the only people who at
that time had any human learning. Even in his early life, Moses seems
to have been aware that he was to be sent to put an end to the bondage
of his people, for, choosing rather to suffer with them than to live in
prosperity with their oppressors, he went out among them and tried to
defend them, and to set them at peace with one another; but the time
was not yet come, and they thrust him from them, so that he was forced
to fly for shelter to the desert, among the Midianite descendants of
Abraham. After he had spent forty years there as a shepherd, God
appeared to him, and then first revealed Himself as JEHOVAH, the Name
proclaiming His eternal self-existence, I AM THAT I AM, a Name so holy,
that the translators of our Bible have abstained from repeating it
where it occurs, but have put the Name, the LORD, in capital letters in
its stead. Moses was then sent to Egypt to lead out the Israelites on
their way back to the land so long promised to their fore-fathers; and
when Pharaoh obstinately refused to let them go, the dreadful plagues
and wonders that were sent on the country were such as to show that
their gods were no gods; since their river, the glory of their land,
became a loathsome stream of blood, creeping things came and went at
the bidding of the Lord, and their adored cattle perished before their
eyes. At last, on the night of the Passover, in each of the houses
unmarked by the blood of the Lamb, there was a great cry over the death
of the first-born son; and where the sign of faith was seen, there was
a mysterious obedient festival held by families prepared for a strange
new journey. Then the hard heart yielded to terror, and Israel went oat
of Egypt as a nation. They had come in in 1707 as seventy men, they
went out in 1491 as six hundred thousand, and their enemies, following
after them, sank like lead in the mighty waters of that arm of the Red
Sea, which had divided to let the chosen pass through.
LESSON IV. THE WILDERNESS.
“Where Is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd
of His flock? Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within him?”—
Isaiah, lxiii. 11.
When Moses had led the 600,000 men, with their wives, children, and
cattle, beyond the reach of the Egyptians, they were in a small
peninsula, between the arms of the Red Sea, with the wild desolate
peaks of Mount Horeb towering in the midst, and all around grim stony
crags, with hardly a spring of water; and though there were here and
there slopes of grass, and bushes of hoary-leaved camel-thorn, and
long-spined shittim or acacia, nothing bearing fruit for human beings.
There were strange howlings and crackings in the mountains, the sun
glared back from the arid stones and rocks, and the change seemed
frightful after the green meadows and broad river of Egypt.
Frightened and faithless, the Israelites cried out reproachfully to
Moses to ask how they should live in this desert place, forgetting that
the Pillar of cloud and fire proved that they were under the care of
Him who had brought them safely out of the hands of their enemies. In
His mercy God bore with their murmurs, fed them with manna from Heaven,
and water out of the flinty rock; and gave them the victory over the
Edomite tribe of robber Amalekites at Rephidim, where Joshua fought,
and Moses, upheld by Aaron and Hur, stretched forth his hands the whole
day. Then, fifty days after their coming out of Egypt, He called them
round the peak of Sinai to hear His own Voice proclaim the terms of the
The Covenant with Abraham had circumcision for the token, faith as
the condition, and the blessing to all nations as the promise. This
Covenant remained in full force, but in the course of the last four
hundred years, sin had grown so much that the old standard, handed down
from the patriarchs, had been forgotten, and men would not have known
what was right, nor how far they fell from it, without a written Law.
This Law, in ten rules, all meeting together in teaching Love to God
and man, commanded in fact perfection, without which no man could be
fit to stand in the sight of God. He spoke it with His own Mouth, from
amid cloud, flame, thunder, and sounding trumpets, on Mount Sinai,
while the Israelites watched around in awe and terror, unable to endure
the dread of that Presence. The promise of this Covenant was, that if
they would keep the Law, they should dwell prosperously in the Promised
Land, and be a royal priesthood and peculiar treasure unto God, They
answered with one voice, “All the words the Lord hath said will we do;"
and Moses made a sacrifice, and sprinkled them with the blood, to
consecrate them and confirm their oath. It was the blood of the Old
Testament. Then he went up into the darkness of the cloud on the
mountain top, there fasting, to talk with God, and to receive the two
Tables of Stone written by the Finger of God. This was, as some
believe, the first writing in the letters of the alphabet ever known in
the world, and the Books of Moses were the earliest ever composed, and
set down with the pen upon parchment.
Those Laws were too strict for man in his fallen state. Keep them he
could not; breaking them, he became too much polluted to be fit for
mercy. Even while living in sight of the cloud on the Mountain, where
Moses was known to be talking with God, the Israelites lost faith, and
set up a golden calf in memory of the Egyptian symbol of divinity,
making it their leader instead of Moses. Such a transgression of their
newly-made promise so utterly forfeited their whole right to the
covenant, that Moses destroyed the precious tables, the token of the
mutual engagement, and God threatened to sweep them off in a moment and
to fulfil His oaths to their forefather in the children of Moses alone.
Then Moses, having purified the camp by slaying the worst offenders,
stood between the rest and the wrath of God, mediating for them until
he obtained mercy for them, and a renewal of the Covenant. Twice he
spent forty days in that awful Presence, where glorious visions were
revealed to him; the Courts of Heaven itself, to be copied by him, by
Divine guidance, in the Ark and Tabernacle, where his brother Aaron,
and his seed after him, were to minister as Priests, setting forth to
the eye how there was a Holy Place, whence men were separated by sin,
and how it could only be entered by a High Priest, after a sacrifice of
atonement. Every ordinance of this service was a shadow of good things
to come, and was therefore strictly enjoined on Israel, as part of the
conditions of the Covenant, guiding their faith onwards by this acted
prophecy; and therewith God, as King of His people, put forth other
commands, some relating to their daily habits, others to their
government as a nation, all tending to keep them separate from other
nations. For transgressions of such laws as these, or for infirmities
of human nature, regarded as stains, cleansing sacrifices were
permitted. For offences against the Ten Commandments, there was no
means of purchasing remission; no animal's, nay, no man's life could
equal such a cost; there was nothing for it but to try to dwell on the
hope, held out to Adam and Abraham, and betokened by the sacrifices and
the priesthood, of some fuller expiation yet to come; some means of not
only obtaining pardon, but of being worthy of mercy.
The Israelites could not even be roused to look for the present
temporal promise, and hankered after the fine soil and rich fruits of
Egypt, rather than the beautiful land of hill and valley that lay
before them; and when their spies reported it to be full of hill forts,
held by Canaanites of giant stature, a cowardly cry of despair broke
out, that they would return to Egypt. Only two of the whole host,
besides Moses, were ready to trust to Him who had delivered them from
Pharaoh, and had led them through the sea. Therefore those two alone of
the grown-up men were allowed to set foot in the Promised Land. Till
all the rest should have fallen in the wilderness, and a better race
have been trained up, God would not help them to take possession. In
their wilfulness they tried to advance, and were defeated, and thus
were obliged to endure their forty years' desert wandering.
Even Moses had his patience worn out by their fretful faithlessness,
and committed an act of disobedience, for which he was sentenced not to
enter the land, but to die on the borders after one sight of the
promise of his fathers. Under him, however, began the work of conquest;
the rich pasture lands of Gilead and Basan were subdued, and the tribes
of Reuben and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, were permitted to
take these as their inheritance, though beyond the proper boundary, the
Jordan. The Moabites took alarm, though these, as descended from
Abraham's nephew Lot, were to be left unharmed; and their king, Balak,
sent, as it appears, even to Mesopotamia for Balaam, a true prophet,
though a guilty man, in hopes that he would bring down the curse of God
on them. Balaam, greedy of reward, forced, as it were, consent from God
to go to Balak, though warned that his words would not be in his own
power. As he stood on the hill top with Balak, vainly endeavouring to
curse, a glorious stream of blessing flowed from his lips, revealing,
not only the fate of all the tribes around, even for a thousand years,
but proclaiming the Sceptre and Star that should rise out of Jacob to
execute vengeance on his foes. But finding himself unable to curse
Israel, the miserable prophet devised a surer means of harming them: he
sent tempters among them to cause them to corrupt themselves, and so
effectual was this invention, that the greater part of the tribe of
Simeon were ensnared, and a great plague was sent in chastisement. It
was checked by the zeal of the young priest, Phineas, under whose
avenging hand so many of the guilty tribe fell, that their numbers
never recovered the blow. Then after a prayer of atonement, a great
battle was fought, and the wretched Balaam was among the slain.
The forty years were over, Moses's time was come, and he gave his
last summing up of the Covenant, and sung his prophetic song. His
authority was to pass to his servant, the faithful spy, bearing the
prophetic name of Joshua; and he was led by God to the top of Mount
Nebo, whence he might see in its length and breadth, the pleasant land,
the free hills, the green valleys watered by streams, the wooded banks
of Jordan, the pale blue expanse of the Mediterranean joining with the
sky to the west; and to the north, the snowy hills of Hermon, which
sent their rain and dew on all the goodly mountain land. It had been
the hope of that old man's hundred and twenty years, and he looked
forth on it with his eye not dim, nor his natural force abated; but God
had better things for him in Heaven, and there upon the mountain top he
died alone, and God buried him in the sepulchre whereof no man knoweth.
None was like to him in the Old Covenant, who stood between God and the
Israelites, but he left a promise that a Prophet should be raised up
like unto himself.
LESSON V. ISRAEL IN CANAAN.
“But He was so merciful, that He forgave their misdeeds and
destroyed them not.”—Psalm Lxxviii. 38.
In the year 1431, Joshua led the tribes through the divided waters
of the Jordan, and received strength and skill to scatter the heathen
before them, conquer the cities, and settle them in their inheritance.
The Land of Canaan was very unlike Egypt, with its flat soil, dry
climate, and single river. It was a narrow strip, inclosed between the
Mediterranean Sea and the river Jordan, which runs due south down a
steep wooded cleft into the Dead Sea, the lowest water in the world, in
a sort of pit of its own, with barren desolation all round it, so as to
keep in memory the ruin of the cities of the plain. In the north, rise
the high mountains of Libanus, a spur from which goes the whole length
of the land, and forms two slopes, whence the rivers flow, either
westward into the Great Sea, or eastward into the Jordan, Many of these
hills are too dry and stony to be cultivated; but the slopes of some
have fine grassy pastures, and the soil of the valleys is exceedingly
rich, bearing figs, vines, olive trees, and corn in plenty, wherever it
is properly tilled. With such hills, rivers, valleys, and pastures, it
was truly a goodly land, and when God's blessing was on it, it was the
fairest spot where man could live. When the Israelites entered it,
every hill was crowned by a strongly-walled and fortified town, the
abode of some little king of one of the seven Canaanite nations who
were given into their hands to be utterly destroyed. Though they were
commanded to make a complete end of all the people in each place they
took, they were forbidden to seize more than they could till, lest the
empty ruins should serve as a harbour for wild beasts; but they had
their several lots marked out where they might spread when their
numbers should need room. As Jacob had promised to Joseph, Ephraim and
half Manaseh had the richest portion, nearly in the middle, and Shiloh,
where the Tabernacle was set up, was in their territory; Judah and
Benjamin were in a very wild rocky part to the southwards, between the
two seas, with only Simeon beyond them; then came, north of Manasseh,
the fine pasture lands of Issachar and Zebulon, and a small border for
Asher between Libanus and the sea; while Reuben, Gad, and the rest of
Manasseh, were to the east of the Jordan, where they had begged to
settle themselves in the meadows of Bashan, and the balmy thickets of
Many a fortified town was still held by the Canaanites, in especial
Jebus, on Mount Moriah, between Judah and Benjamin; and close to Asher,
the two great merchant cities of the Zidonians upon the sea-shore.
These were called Tyre and Zidon, and their inhabitants were named
Phoenicians, and were the chief sailors and traders of the Old World.
From seeing a dog's mouth stained purple after eating a certain
shell-fish on their coast, they had learnt how to dye woollen garments
of a fine purple or scarlet, which was thought the only colour fit for
kings, and these were sent out to all the countries round, in exchange
for balm and spices from Gilead; corn and linen from Egypt; ivory,
pearls, and rubies from India; gold from the beds of rivers in Chittim
or Asia Minor; and silver from Spain, then called Tarshish. Thus they
grew very rich and powerful, and were skilful in all they undertook.
The art of writing, which they seem to have caught from the Hebrews,
went from them to the Greeks, sons of Japhet, who lived more to the
north, in what were called the Isles of the Gentiles.
The Canaanites had a still fouler worship than the other sons of Ham
in Egypt. They had many gods, whom they called altogether Baalim, or
lords; and goddesses, whom they called Ashtoreth; and they thought that
each had some one city or people to defend; and that the Lord Jehovah
of the Israelites was such another as these, instead of being the only
God of Heaven and earth. Among these there was one great Baal to whom
the Phoenicians were devoted, and an especial Ashtoreth, the moon, or
Queen of Heaven, who was thought to have a lover named Tammuz, who died
with the flowers in the autumn and revived in the spring, and the women
took delight in wailing and bemoaning his death, and then dancing and
offering cakes in honour of his revival. Besides these, there was the
planet Saturn, or as they called him, Moloch or Remphan, of whom they
had a huge brazen statue with the hands held a little apart, set up
over a furnace; they put poor little children between these brazen
hands, and left them to drop into the flames below as an offering to
this dreadful god.
Well might such worship be called abomination, and the Israelites be
forbidden to hold any dealings with those who followed it. As long as
the generation lived who had been bred up in the wilderness, they
obeyed, and felt themselves under the rule of God their King, Who made
His Will known at Shiloh by the signs on the breastplate of the High
Priest, while judges and elders governed in the cities. But afterwards
they began to be tempted to make friends with their heathen neighbours,
and thus learnt to believe in their false deities, and to hanker after
the service of some god who made no such strict laws of goodness as
those by which they were bound. As certainly as they fell away, so
surely the punishment came, and God stirred up some of these dangerous
friends to attack them. Sometimes it was a Canaanite tribe with iron
chariots who mightily oppressed them; sometimes the robber shepherds,
the Midianites, would burst in and carry off their cattle and their
crops, until distress brought the Israelites back to a better mind, and
they cried out to the Lord. Then He would raise up a mighty warrior,
and give him the victory, so that he became ruler and judge over
Israel; but no sooner was he dead, than they would fall back again into
idolatry, and receive another chastisement, repent, and be again
delivered. This went on for about 400 years, the Israelites growing
constantly worse. In the latter part of this time, their chief enemies
were the Philistines, in the borders of Simeon and Judah, near the sea.
These were not Canaanites, but had once dwelt in Egypt, and then, after
living for a time in Cyprus, had come and settled in Gaza and Ashkelon,
and three other very strong cities on the coast, where they worshipped
a fish-god, called Dagon. They had no king, but were ruled by lords of
their five cities, and made terrible inroads upon all the country
round; until at last the Israelites, in their self-will, fancied they
could turn them to flight by causing the Ark to be carried out to
battle by the two corrupt young priests, sons of Eli, whose doom had
already been pronounced—that they should both die in one day. They
were slain, when the Ark was taken by the enemies, and their aged
father fell back and broke his neck in the shock of the tidings. The
glory had departed; and though God proved His might by shattering
Dagon's image before the Ark, and plaguing the Philistines wherever
they carried it, till they were forced to send it home in a manner
which again showed the Divine Hand, yet it never returned to Shiloh;
God deserted the place where His Name had not been kept holy; the token
of the Covenant seemed to be lost; the Philistines ruled over the
broken and miserable Israelites, and there was only one promise to
comfort them—that the Lord would raise up unto Himself a faithful
Priest. Already there was growing up at Shiloh the young Levite,
Samuel, dedicated by his mother, and bred up by Eli. He is counted as
first of the prophets, that long stream of inspired men, who constantly
preached righteousness, and to whom occasionally future events were
made known. He was also last of the Judges, or heaven-sent deliverers.
As soon as he grew up, he rallied the Israelites, restored the true
worship, as far as could be with the Ark in concealment, and sent them
out to battle. They defeated the Philistines, and under Samuel, again
became a free nation.
LESSON VI. THE KINGDOM OF ALL ISRAEL.
“As is the fat taken away from the peace-offering, so was David
chosen out of the children of Israel ... In all his works he praised
the Holy One Most High with words of glory .... The Lord took away his
sins and exalted his horn for ever, He gave him a covenant of kings,
and a throne of glory in Israel.”—Ecclus. xlvii. II.
When Samuel grew old, the Israelites would not trust to God to
choose a fresh guardian for them, but cried out for a king to keep them
together and lead them to war like other nations. Their entreaty was
granted, and in 1094 B. C. Saul the son of Kish, of the small but
fierce tribe of Benjamin, was appointed by God, and anointed like a
priest by Samuel, on the understanding that he was not to rule by his
own will, like the princes around, but as God's chief officer, to
enforce His laws and carry out His bidding.
This Saul would not do. When, instead of lurking in caves, with no
weapons save their tools for husbandry, the Israelites, under his
leading, gradually became free and warlike; and his son Jonathan and
uncle Abner were able generals, he fancied he could go his own way, he
took on him to offer sacrifice, as the heathen kings did; and when sent
forth to destroy all belonging to the Amalekites, he spared the king
and the choicest of the spoil. For this he was sentenced not to be the
founder of a line of kings, and the doom filled him with wrath against
the priesthood, while an evil spirit was permittted to trouble his
soul, Samuel's last great act was to anoint the youngest son of Jesse
the Bethlehemite, the great grandchild of the loving Moabitess, Ruth,
the same whom God had marked beside his sheepfolds as the man after His
own Heart, the future father of the sceptred line of Judah, and of the
“Root and Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star.”
Fair and young, full of inspired song, and of gallant courage, the
youth David was favoured as the minstrel able to drive the evil spirit
from Saul, the champion who had slain the giant of Gath. He was the
king's son-in-law, the prince's bosom friend; but, as the hopes of
Israel became set on him, Saul began to hate him as if he were a
supplanter, though Jonathan submitted to the Will that deprived himself
of a throne, and loved his friend as faithfully as ever. At last, by
Jonathan's counsel, David fled from court, and Saul in his rage at
thinking him aided by the priests, slew all who fell into his hands,
thus cutting off his own last link with Heaven. A trusty band of brave
men gathered round David, but he remained a loyal outlaw, and always
abstained from any act against his sovereign, even though Saul twice
lay at his mercy. Patiently he tarried the Lord's leisure, and the time
came at last. The Philistines overran the country, and chased Saul even
to the mountain fastnesses of Gilboa, where the miserable man, deserted
by God, tried to learn his fate through evil spirits, and only met the
certainty of his doom. In the next day's battle his true-hearted son
met a soldier's death; but Saul, when wounded by the archers, tried in
vain to put an end to his own life, and was, after a reign of forty
years, at last slain by an Amalekite, who brought his crown to David,
and was executed by him for having profanely slain the Lord's anointed.
For seven years David reigned only in his own tribe of Judah, while
the brave Abner kept the rest of the kingdom for Saul's son,
Ishbosheth, until, taking offence because Ishbosheth refused to give
him one of Saul's widows to wife, he offered to come to terms with
David, but in leaving the place of meeting, he was treacherously killed
by David's overbearing nephew, Joab, in revenge for the death of a
brother whom he had slain in single combat. Ishbosheth was soon after
murdered by two of his own servants, and David becoming sole king,
ruled prudently with all his power, and with anxious heed to the will
of his true King. He was a great conqueror, and was the first to win
for Israel her great city on Mount Moriah. It had once been called
Salem, or peace, when the mysterious priest-king, Melchizedek, reigned
there in Abraham's time, but since it had been held by the Jebusites,
and called Jebus. When David took it, he named it Jerusalem, or the
vision of peace, fortified it, built a palace there, and fetched
thither with songs and solemn dances, the long-hidden Ark, so that it
might be the place where God's Name was set, the centre of worship; and
well was the spot fitted for the purpose. It was a hill girdled round
by other hills, and so strong by nature, that when built round with
towers and walls, an enemy could hardly have taken it. David longed to
raise a solid home for the Ark, but this was not a work permitted to a
man of war and bloodshed, and he could only collect materials, and
restore the priests to their offices, giving them his own glorious Book
of Psalms, full of praise, prayer, and entreaty, to be sung for ever
before the Lord, by courses of Levites relieving one another, that so
the voice of praise might never die out.
David likewise made the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and
Edomites pay him tribute, and became the most powerful king in the
East, receiving the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham; but even he
was far from guiltless. He was a man of strong passions, though of a
tender heart, and erred greatly, both from hastiness and weakness, but
never without repentance, and his Psalms of contrition have ever since
been the treasure of the penitent. Chastisement visited his sins, and
was meekly borne, but bereavement and rebellion, care, sorrow, and
disappointment, severely tried the Sweet Psalmist of Israel, shepherd,
prophet, soldier, and king, ere in 1016, in his seventieth year, he
went to his rest, after having been king for forty years, he was
assured that his seed should endure for ever.
All promises of temporal splendour were accomplished in his peaceful
son, Solomon, who asked to be the wisest, and therefore was likewise
made the richest, most prosperous, and most peaceful of kings. No enemy
rose against him, but all the nations sought his friendship; and Zidon
for once had her merchandise hallowed by its being offered to build and
adorn the Temple, Solomon's great work. The spot chosen for it was that
of Isaac's sacrifice, where was the threshing-floor bought by David
from Araunah, but to give farther room, he levelled the head of the
mountain, throwing it into the valley; and thus forming an even space
where, silently built of huge stone, quarried at a distance, arose the
courts, for strangers, women, men, and priests, surrounded by
cloisters, supporting galleries of rooms for the lodging of the priests
and Levites, many hundreds in number. The main building was of white
marble, and the Holy of Holies was overlaid even to the roof outside
with plates of gold, flashing back the sunshine. Even this was but a
poor token of the Shechinah, that glorious light which descended at
Solomon's prayer of consecration, and filled the Sanctuary with the
visible token of God's Presence on the Mercy Beat, to be seen by the
High Priest once a year.
That consecration was the happiest moment of the history of Israel,
What followed was mournful. Even David had been like the kings of other
eastern nations in the multitude of his wives, and Solomon went far
beyond him, bringing in heathen women, who won him into paying homage
to their idols, and outraging God by building temples to Moloch and
Ashtoreth; though as a prophet he had been inspired to speak in his
Proverbs of Christ in His Church as the Holy Wisdom of God. A warning
was sent that the power which had corrupted him should not continue in
his family, and that the kingdom should be divided, but he only grew
more tyrannical, and when the Ephraimite warrior, Jeroboam, was marked
by the prophet Ahijah as the destined chief of the new kingdom, Solomon
persecuted him, and drove him to take refuge with the great Shishak,
King of Egypt, where he seems to have learnt the idolatries from which
Israel had been so slowly weaned. Sick at heart, Solomon in his old
age, wrote the saddest book in the Bible; and though his first writing,
the Canticles, had been a joyful prophetic song of the love between the
Lord and His Church, his last was a mournful lamentation over the
vanity and emptiness of the world, and full of scorn of all that earth
LESSON VII. THE KINGDOM OP JUDAH.
“But if his children forsake My Law, and walk not in My judgments:
if they break My statutes, and keep not My Commandments, I will visit
their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges.”—Ps.
lxxxix. 31, 32.
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, brought about, by his own harshness
and folly, the punishment that God had decreed. By the advice of his
hasty young counsellors, he made so violent a reply to the petition
brought to him by his subjects, that they took offence, and the ten
northern tribes broke away from him, setting up as their king,
Jeroboam, who had been already marked out by the prophet.
The lesson of meekness seems to have been the one chiefly appointed
for Rehoboam, for when he assembled the fighting men of Judah and
Benjamin to subdue the revolt, Shemaiah the prophet was sent to forbid
him, and he submitted at once; and when again Jeroboam's friend Shishak
invaded his kingdom, Shemaiah told him it was as a punishment sent him
by God, against which he must not struggle; so he gathered all the
riches left him by his father, paid the tribute that the Egyptians
required; and for being thus patient and submissive, he was again
blessed by God, and Judah prospered. No doubt Rehoboam's obedience
saved him from sharing the fate of the other kings whom Shishak
conquered and dragged back to Egypt, where he yoked them to his
chariot, four abreast, and made them draw him about. Shishak was a
great conqueror, and in nine years overran all Asia, as far as the
river Ganges. All his victories were recorded in hieroglyphics, and the
learned have made out the picture of a people with the features of
Jews, bringing their gifts to his feet, no doubt the messengers of
Rehoboam. He lost his sight in his old age, and is said to have killed
In 955 Abijah came to the throne instead of Rehoboam, and was
permitted to gain a great victory over Jeroboam, but he died at the end
of three years, and was succeeded by his son Asa. The great temptation
of the men of Judah seems to have been at this time the resorting to
hill tops and groves of trees as places of worship, instead of going
steadily to the Temple at Jerusalem; and the kings, though obedient in
other respects, did not dare to put down this forbidden custom. Asa's
mother, Maachah, a daughter of Absalom, even had an idol in a grove;
but after the king had been strengthened to gain a great victory over
the Ethiopians, he destroyed the idol, and put her down from being
queen. His end was less good than his beginning; he made a league with
the Syrians instead of trusting to God; and threw the prophet Hanani
into prison for having rebuked him; and in his latter years he was
cruel and oppressive. He died in 891.
His son Jehoshaphat was a very good and gentle prince, but his very
gentleness seemed to have led him into error, for he became too
friendly with the idolatrous House of Ahab in Samaria, and allowed his
son Jehoram to take to wife the child of Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah,
who proved even more wicked than her mother. Jehoshaphat was in
alliance with Ahab, and went out with him to his last battle at
Ramoth-Gilead, where Ahab tried to put his friend into danger instead
of himself by making him appear as the only king present, but entirely
failed to deceive the hand appointed to bring death. Afterwards, when
the Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites came up against Judah,
Jehoshaphat was commanded to have no fears, but to go out to meet them,
with the Levites singing before him, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy
endureth for ever!” So the battle should be his without fighting; for
the three banded nations fought among themselves, and made such a
slaughter of one another, that the Jews had nothing to do but to gather
the spoil, which was in such heaps, that they spent three days in
collecting it. And again, when Jehoshaphat went out with Jehoram, King
of Israel, against the Moabites, with Jehoshaphat's tributary, the King
of Edom, another miraculous deliverance was granted by the hand of
Elisha, and the water which was sent to relieve the thirsty hosts of
Israel and Judah, seemed to the Moabites as blood; so that, thinking
the three armies had quarrelled and slain each other, they made an
unguarded attack, and suffered a total rout.
Jehoshaphat was succeeded in 891 by his son Jehoram, who, though he
had seen such signal proofs of God's power, chose rather to follow the
will of his wicked wife Athaliah, than to obey the commands of God. To
strengthen his dominion, he followed the example of the worst heathen
tyrants, and killed his seven brethren; and he permitted and encouraged
idolatry in the most open manner. He was first punished by the loss of
the Edomites, who rose against him, and set up a free kingdom according
to the prophecy of Isaac; next by an in-road of the Arabians and
Philistines, who ravaged his very house, and killed all his children
except the youngest, Ahaziah; and lastly, by a loathsome and deadly
disease, which ended his life in the fortieth year of his age.
Ahaziah was only twenty-two, and was ruled by his mother Athaliah
for the one year before, going to visit his uncle Jehoram, of Israel,
he was slain with him in Jehu's massacre of the House of Ahab. Athaliah
herself fulfilled the rest of the decree which she did not acknowledge.
She was bent on reigning, and savagely murdered all her grandsons who
fell into her hands; but as the House of David was never to fail, one
tender branch, the infant Joash, was hidden from her fury by his aunt,
the wife of the High Priest Jehoiada; and when the fitting time was
come, the Levites were armed, and the people were shown their little
king. They acknowledged him with shouts of joy, and Athaliah coming to
see the cause of the outcry, was dragged out of the Temple and put to
death. Jerusalem was cleansed from the worship of Baal, and all
prospered as long as the good Jehoiada lived. After his death, however,
Joash fell away grievously, and promoted idol worship; nay, he even
slew the son of his preserver, Jehoiada, for bringing him a Divine
rebuke, and for this iniquity his troops suffered a great defeat from
the Syrians, and his servants slew him as he lay sick on his bed in
838. His son Amaziah began well, obeying the Lord by dismissing the
Ephraimites whom he had hired to aid him against the Edomites, and he
was therefore rewarded with a great victory; but so strangely blind was
he, that he brought home the vain gods of Edom and worshipped them. He
too was slain by rebels in the flower of his age, leaving his son
Uzziah, also called Azariah, to succeed him at sixteen years old.
Uzziah met with such success at first, that his heart was lifted up,
and in his pride he endeavoured to intrude into the priest's office,
and burn incense on the Altar; but even while striving with the High
Priest, the leprosy broke out white on his brow, setting him apart, to
live as an outcast from religious services for ever. His son Jotham
became the governor of the kingdom during his lifetime, and afterwards
reigned alone till the year 759, when he was succeeded by his son Ahaz,
one of the worst and most idolatrous of the Kings of Judah. The Syrians
made alliance with Israel, and terribly ravaged Judea, till Jerusalem
stood alone in the midst of desolation; and Ahaz, instead of turning to
the Lord, tried to strengthen himself by fresh heathen alliances,
though the prophet Isaiah brought him certain messages that his foes
should be destroyed, and promised him, for a sign, that great blessing
of the House of David, that the Virgin's Son should be born, and should
be God present with us.
LESSON VIII. THE KINGDOM OF SAMARIA.
“As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.”—
Hosea, x. 7.
Many promises had marked out Ephraim for greatness, and at first the
new kingdom seemed quite to overshadow the little rocky Judah. But the
founder of the dominion of the ten tribes sowed the seeds of decay,
because, like Saul, he would not trust to the God who had given him his
crown. He was afraid his subjects would return to the kings of the
House of David, if he let them go to worship at Jerusalem, and
therefore revived the old symbol of a calf, which he must have seen in
Egypt in his exile, setting up two shrines at Bethel and at Dan, the
two ends of his kingdom, bidding his people go thither to offer
sacrifice. Thus he made Israel to sin; and while hoping to strengthen
his power, was the cause of its ruin. Prophets warned him in vain, that
his line should not remain on the throne; and in the reign of his son
Nadab, the rebel Baasha arose and slew the whole family of this first
king of the idolatrous realm, in the year 952. Baasha was not warned by
the fate of Nadab, but followed the same courses; and his son Elah and
all his house were destroyed in 928, when after the slaughter of two
short-lived usurpers, the captain of the army, Omri, became king. Omri
belonged to the city of Jezreel, in the inheritance of Issachar; but he
built Samaria in the midst of Ephraim, between the two hills of
blessing and of cursing, and this town becoming the capital, gave its
name to the whole kingdom. In 918, Omri left his crown to his son Ahab,
who allied himself with the rich Phoenicians, and took the Zidonian
princess Jezebel for his wife; the most unfortunate marriage in the
whole Israelitish history. Sinful as had been the calf-worship, it was
still meant for adoration of the true God; but Jezebel brought her foul
Phoenician faith with her, and tried to force on the Israelites the
worship of Baal as a separate god, in the stead of the Lord Jehovah.
Ahab was weak, and yielded; and the greater number of the nation
were so much corrupted by the breach of the Second Commandment, that
they were not slow to break the First, although God had sent the most
glorious of all His prophets to prove to them that “the Lord, He is the
God.” Three years of drought showed who commands the clouds, and then
came Elijah's challenge to the four hundred prophets of Baal, to prove
who was the God who could send fire from Heaven! All day did the four
hundred cry wildly on their idol, while Elijah mocked them; at evening
his offering was made, and drenched with water to increase the wonder
of the miracle. He prayed, the fire fell at once from Heaven, and the
people shouted “The Lord He is the God!” and gave their deceivers up to
punishment; and when this partial purification was made, he prayed upon
Mount Carmel, and the little cloud arose and grew into a mighty storm,
bringing abundance of rain on the thirsty land.
Who could withstand such wonders? Yet they only hardened Jezebel
into greater cruelty, and Elijah was forced to flee into the utmost
desert, where he communed with God on Mount Sinai, even like Moses.
Only once more did he appear again to Ahab, and that was to rebuke him
for having permitted the murder of a poor subject whose property he had
coveted, and to foretell the horrors in which his line should end.
Ahab was not wholly hardened, and often had gleams of good which
brought favour upon him. A new enemy had risen up since the Canaanites
had been destroyed, and the Philistines repressed, by David; namely,
the Syrians, a powerful nation, whose capital was at Damascus, a city
which is said to be a perfect paradise, so delicious is the climate,
and so lovely the two rivers, one making the circuit of the walls, the
other flowing through the middle of the town. These Syrians were
appointed to bring punishment upon Samaria; but at first, two great
victories were vouchsafed to Ahab, because Benhadad, King of Syria,
fancied that the Israelites only won because their gods were gods of
the hills. Afterwards, when Ahab went out to recover Ramoth Gilead,
wilfully trusting to lying prophets, and silencing the true one, not
all his disguise could avail to protect him; he was slain in the
battle; and when his chariot was washed, the dogs licked his blood, as
they had licked that of his victim Naboth.
Ahaziah, his son, soon died of a fall from the top of his palace,
and the next brother Jehoram reigned, trying to make an agreement
between the worship of God and of Baal. It was now that Elijah was
taken away into Heaven by a whirlwind, leaving behind him Elisha to
carry on his mission of prophecy and to execute the will of the Lord.
It was Elisha who sent a messenger to anoint Jehu, the warrior who
performed the vengeance of the Lord upon the House of Ahab. In the year
884 Jehoram was slain in his chariot; Jezebel, thrown out of window by
her own slaves, perished miserably among the ravenous flocks of street
dogs; and all the princes of the line were slaughtered by the rulers of
Samaria; the worshippers of Baal were massacred, and the land purified
from this idolatry. Still Jehu would not part with the calves of Dan
and Bethel; and he was therefore warned that his family should likewise
pass away after the fourth generation.
Elisha had already wept at the fore-knowledge of the miseries which
Hazael of Syria should bring upon Israel; and Hazael, murdering his
master Benhadad by stifling him with a wet cloth as he lay sick on his
bed, became a dreadful enemy to Samaria. So much broken was the force
of Jehoahaz, Jehu's son, that at one time he had only one thousand
foot, fifty horse, and ten chariots; but after this, prosperity began
to return to the Israelites. Joash, his son, was a mighty king, and
would have been still greater, if he would have believed that obeying
the simple words of the prophet Elisha on his death-bed would bring him
victory. Yet so much greater was his force than that of Judah, that
when Amaziah sent him a challenge, he replied by the insulting parable
of the thistle and the cedar. Jeroboam II., his son, was likewise
prosperous; but neither blessings nor warnings would induce these kings
to forsake their golden calves. Amos, the herdsman-prophet of Tekoa,
was warned to say nothing against the king's chapel at Bethel; and
Hosea in vain declared that Ephraim was feeding on wind, and following
after the east-wind, namely, putting his trust in mere empty air. So in
the time of Zechariah, son to Jeroboam, came the doom of the House of
Jehu, and in 773 the king was murdered by Shallum, who only reigned a
month, being killed by his general, Menahem. Again, Menahem's son,
Pekahiah, was killed by his captain Pekah, a great warrior, who made an
attack upon Ahaz of Judah, and slew one hundred and twenty thousand
Jews in one day. Many more with all their spoil were brought captives
to Samaria; but there was some good yet left in Israel, and at the
rebuke of the prophet Oded, the Ephraimites remembered that they were
brethren, gave back to the prisoners all their spoil, fed them, clothed
them, and mounted them on asses to carry them safely back to their own
land. But Pekah, and his ally, Rezin of Damascus, were sore foes to
Ahaz, and cruelly ravaged his domains; and though God encouraged him,
by the words of Isaiah, to trust in Him alone, and see their
destruction, Ahaz obstinately resolved to turn to a new power for
LESSON IX. NINEVEH.
“Where is the dwelling-place of the lions, and the feeding-place of
the young lions?”—Nahum, ii. 11.
When the confusion of tongues took place at Babel, and men were
dispersed, the sons of Ham's grandson, Cush, remained in Mesopotamia,
which took the name of Assyria, from Assur, the officer of Nimrod, the
first king. This Assur began building, on the banks of the Tigris, the
great city of Nineveh, one of the mightiest in all the world, and the
first to be ruined. It was enclosed by a huge wall, so wide that three
chariots could drive side by side on the top, and built of bricks made
of the clay of the country, dried in the sun and cemented with bitumen,
guarded at the base by a plinth fifty feet in height, and with immense
ditches round it, about sixty miles in circumference. Within were huge
palaces, built of the same bricks, faced with alabaster, and the rooms
decked with cedar, gilding, and ivory, and raised upon terraces whence
broad flights of steps led down to courts guarded by giant stone
figures of bulls and lions, with eagles' wings and human faces, as if
some notion of the mysterious Cherubim around the Throne in Heaven had
floated to these Assyrians. The slabs against the walls were carved
with representations of battles, hunts, sacrifices, triumphs, and all
the scenes in the kings' histories, nay, in the building of the city;
and there were explanations in the wedge-shaped letters of the old
Assyrian alphabet. The Ninevites had numerous idols, but their honour
for the Lord had not quite faded away; and about the year 830, about
the time of Amaziah in Judah, and Jeroboam II. in Israel, the prophet
Jonah was sent to rebuke them for their many iniquities. In trying to
avoid the command, by sailing to Tarshish in a Phoenician ship, he
underwent that strange punishment which was a prophetic sign of our
Lord's Burial and Resurrection; and thus warned, he went to Nineveh and
startled the people by the cry, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be
destroyed!” At that cry, the whole place repented as one man; and from
the king to the beggar all fasted and wept, till God had mercy on their
repentance and ready faith, and turned away His wrath, in pity to the
120,000 innocent children who knew not yet to do good or evil.
The prophet Nahum afterwards prophesied against the bloody city, and
foretold that her men should become like women, and that in the midst
of her feasting and drunkenness an overflowing flood should make an end
of her. But first God had a work for the Ninevites to do, namely, to
punish His own chosen, who would not have Him for their God. Therefore,
He strengthened the great King Tiglath Pileser, who already held in
subjection the other great Assyrian city of Babylon, and the brave
Median mountaineers, to come out against the Syrians and Israelites.
Ahaz, King of Judah, hoping to be delivered from his distresses, sent
messengers to Tiglath Pileser, to say, “I am thy servant and thy son,”
and to beg him to protect him from his two enemies, promising to pay
him tribute. Tiglath Pileser did indeed take Damascus, and put the king
to death, destroying the old Syrian kingdom for ever, and he carried
away the calf of Dan, and severely chastised Samaria, where Pekah was
shortly after murdered by his servant Hoshea; so that Isaiah's prophecy
of the ruin of “these two tails of smoking firebrands,” Pekah and
Rezin, was fulfilled; but as Ahaz had tried to bring it about in his
own way, he gained nothing. Though he went to pay his service to the
conqueror at Damascus, Tiglath Pileser did not help him, but only
distressed him; and instead of learning Who was his true Guardian, Ahaz
only came home delighted with the Syrian temples, and profanely altered
the arrangements in the Temple, which Moses and Solomon had ordained by
God's command, as patterns of the greater and more perfect Tabernacle
revealed to Moses in Heaven. He soon died, in the year 725, when only
thirty-six years old, leaving his crown to Hezekiah, then only sixteen,
the king whose heart was more whole with God than had been that of any
king since his father David, and whose first thought was to purify the
Temple, and to destroy all corrupt worship, breaking down idols, and
destroying the high places and groves, which had stood ever since
Hoshea, too, was the best King of Samaria that had yet reigned, for
he encouraged his subjects to go to worship at Jerusalem, whither
Hezekiah invited them to keep the Passover, and that feast had not been
held so fully since Solomon's time. They came back full of zeal, and
destroyed many of the idols; but the reformation came too late; the
measure of Israel's sin was full. Hoshea offended Shalmaneser, who had
succeeded Tiglath Pileser, by making friends with So, King of Egypt,
and the Assyrian army came down upon Israel in the year 722, and
killing Hoshea, carried off all the people as captives, settling them
in the cities of the Medes, never more to dwell in their own land.
Sargon seems to have dethroned Shalmaneser about this time, and to have
completed the conquest of Israel, of which he boasted on the tablets of
a great palace near Nineveh, which has been lately brought to light.
The remnant that was left, the small realm of Judah, took warning,
and turned to God with all their heart, and therefore were protected;
but they had much to suffer. Sargon's son, Sennacherib, was a proud and
ambitious monarch, who used his Israelite captives in building up the
walls of Nineveh, and making the most magnificent of all the palaces
there, eight acres in size, and covered with inscriptions. He invaded
Judea, took forty-six cities, and besieged Jerusalem, raising a mound
to overtop the walls; but on receiving large gifts from Hezekiah, he
returned to his own land. At Babylon a prince named Merodach Baladan
had set himself up against Sennacherib, and sought the friendship of
Hezekiah. When the good King of Judah recovered from his illness by a
miracle, the sign of which was, that the sun seemed to retreat in his
course, it probably won the attention of the Chaldeans, who were great
star-gazers; and Merodach Baladan sent messengers to compliment the
king, whose favour with Heaven had thus been shown to all the earth.
For once Hezekiah erred, and was so much uplifted, as to display his
treasure and his new-born son in ostentation. Isaiah rebuked him,
telling him that his children should be slaves in the hands of the very
nation who had heard his boast. He meekly submitted, thankful that
there should be peace and truth in his days. Soon after, Babylon was
reduced by Sennacherib, and Merodach Baladan driven into exile. In the
latter years of his reign, Sennacherib undertook an expedition into
Egypt, and on his way sent a blasphemous message by his servant,
Rabshakeh, to summon Hezekiah to submit, and warning him and his
people, that their God could no more protect them than the gods of the
conquered nations had saved their worshippers. In answer to the prayer
of Hezekiah, came, by the mouth of Isaiah, an assurance that the
boaster who insulted the living God, was only an instrument in His
Hands, unable to go one step against His will. Not one arrow should he
shoot against the holy city, but he should hear a rumour, a blast
should be sent on him, and he should fall by the sword in his own land.
Accordingly, on the report that Tirhakah, the great King of
Ethiopia, was coming to the aid of the Egyptians, he hurried on to
reinforce the army he had sent against him, intending to take Jerusalem
on his way back. But on the night when the two armies were in sight of
each other, ere the battle, the blast of death passed over the
Assyrians; and in early morning the host lay dead, not by the sword,
but by the breath of the Lord, and Sennacherib was left to return
without the men in whom he had trusted! Even heathens recorded this
deliverance, but they strangely altered the story. They said that it
was the prayer of the Egyptian king that prevailed on his gods to send
a multitude of mice into the enemy's camp, to gnaw all the bow-strings,
so that they could not fight; and they showed a statue of the king with
a mouse in his hand, which was, they said, a memorial of the wonder.
Sennacherib, in rage and fury, cruelly persecuted the Israelites at
Nineveh for their connection with the Jews; and then it was that the
pious Tobit buried the corpses that were cast in the street until he
lost his sight, afterwards so wonderfully restored. Sennacherib was
murdered in the year 720 by two of his sons, while worshipping his god
Nisroch; and another son, Esarhaddon, became king.
Esarhaddon, who is known by many different names, soon after came
out and marauded all over the adjacent country; and it is believed that
it was about this time that Bethulia was so bravely defended, and the
Ninevite general slain by the craft and courage of Judith. Esarhaddon
took away all the remaining Israelites from their country, and filled
it up with Phoenicians and Medes from cities which had been conquered.
These, bringing their idols into the land of the Lord, were chastised
with lions; and, begging to be taught to worship the God of the land,
had priests sent them, who taught them some of the truth, though very
imperfectly; and these new inhabitants were called Samaritans.
In the time of Hezekiah, many more of the Psalms than had been
before collected, were written down and applied to the Temple Service.
The latter part of the Proverbs of Solomon were first copied out, and
the inspired words of the prophets began to be added to the Scriptures.
Joel's date is unfixed, but Hosea, Amos, and Jonah, had recently been
prophesying, and the glorious evangelical predictions of Isaiah and
Micah were poured out throughout this reign, those of Isaiah ranging
from the humiliation and Passion of the Redeemer, to the ingathering of
the nations to His Kingdom, and Micah marking out the little Bethlehem
as the birth-place of “Him whose goings are from everlasting.”
Manasseh, the son of the good Hezekiah, began to reign in 699. He
was in his first years savagely wicked, and very idolatrous. It is
believed that he caused the great evangelical prophet, Isaiah, to be
put to death by being sawn asunder, and he set an image in the Temple
itself. He soon brought down his punishment on his head, for the
Assyrian captains invaded Judea, and took him captive, dragging him in
chains to Babylon. There he repented, and humbled himself with so
contrite a heart, that God had mercy on him, and caused his enemies to
restore him to his throne; but the free days of Judah were over, and
they were thenceforth subjects, paying tribute to the King of Assyria,
and Manasseh was only a tributary for the many remaining years of his
reign, while he strove in vain to undo the evil he had done by bringing
Meantime the greatness of Nineveh came to an end. The Babylonians
and Medes revolted against it, and it was ruined in the year 612.
Sardanapalus succeeded his father at Nineveh, but was weak and
luxurious. His brother, Saracus, was so like him, that what seems
really to have been the end of Saracus, is generally told of
Sardanapalus. He was so weary of all amusement and delight, that, by
way of change, he would dress like his wives, and spin and embroider
with them, and he even offered huge rewards to anyone who would invent
a new pleasure. He said his epitaph should be, that he carried with him
that which he had eaten, which, said wise men, was a fit motto only for
a pig, not a man. At last his carelessness and violence provoked the
Babylonians and Medes to rise against him, and they besieged his city;
but he took no notice, and feasted on, putting his trust in an old
prophecy, (perhaps Nahum's,) that nothing should harm Nineveh till the
river became her enemy. At last he heard that the Tigris had
overflowed, and broken down a part of the wall; and so giving himself
up, he shut himself up in his palace, and setting fire to it, burnt
himself with all his wives, slaves, and treasures, rather than be taken
by the enemy. So ended Nineveh, in the year 612. No one ever lived
there again; the river made part a swamp, and the rest was covered with
sand brought by the desert winds. It was all ruin and desolation; but
of late years many of its mighty remains have been brought to our
country, as witnesses of the dealings of God with His people's foes.
LESSON X. THE CAPTIVITY.
“Is this the city that men call the perfection of beauty, the joy of
the whole earth?”—Larn. ii. 15.
Manasseh's son, Amon, undid all the reformation of his latter years,
and brought back idolatry; and indeed, the whole Jewish people had
become so corrupt, that even when Amon was murdered in 642, after only
reigning two years, and better days came back with the good Josiah, it
was with almost all of them only a change of the outside, and not of
the heart. Josiah was but eight years old when he came to the throne,
and at sixteen he began to rule, seeking the Lord earnestly with his
whole heart, as David and Hezekiah alone had done before him. One of
his first acts was to purify the Temple, and in so doing, the book of
the Law of Moses was found, cast aside, and forgotten by all. Josiah
bade the scribes read it aloud, and then for the first time he heard
what blessings Judah had forfeited, what curses she had deserved, and
how black was her disobedience in the sight of God. Well might he rend
his clothes, weep aloud, and send to the prophetess Huldah, to ask
whether the anger of the Lord could yet be turned aside. She made
answer by the word of the God of Justice, that the doom must come on
the guilty nation, but that in His mercy, He would spare Josiah the
sight of the ruin, and that he should be gathered into his grave in
peace; and at the same time Zephaniah likewise spoke of judgment, and
Jeremiah, the priest of Anathoth, was foretelling that treacherous
Judah should soon suffer like backsliding Israel. Yet even this
hopeless future did not daunt Josiah's loving heart from doing his
best. He collected his people, and renewed the Covenant, he rooted out
every trace of idolatry, even more thoroughly than Hezekiah had done,
overthrowing even Solomon's idol temples; and he went to Bethel, which
he seems to have held under the King of Assyria, and defiled the old
altar there by burning bones on it, as the disobedient prophet had
foretold of him by name, when that altar was first set up. He likewise
caused copies of the Law to be made, so that it might never be lost
again; and the Jews have a story, that knowing the Temple was to be
destroyed, he saved the Ark of the Covenant, Aaron's rod, and the pot
of manna, from sacrilege, by hiding them away in the hollow of Mount
Nebo, where they have never since been found; but this is quite
Josiah lived between two mighty powers; the King of Babylon, who had
newly taken Nineveh, and Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt, a very bold and
able man, who hired Phoenician ships to sail round Africa, and then did
not believe the crews when they came back, because they said they had
seen the sun to the north at noon, and wool growing on trees. He tried
to cut a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea; and wishing to check the
power of Babylon, he brought an army by sea to make war upon Assyria,
landing at Acre under Mount Carmel, and intending to march through
Gilead. Josiah, being a tributary of Babylon, thought it his duty to
endeavour to stop him, and going out to battle with him at Megiddo, was
there mortally wounded, and died on his way home, in the year 611. The
mourning of the Jews over their good king was so bitter, that it was a
proverb long after; and they had indeed reason to lament, for he was
the last who stood between them and their sin and their punishment.
Jehoahaz, or Shallum, his third son, a wicked young man, only
reigned while Necho was fighting a battle with the Babylonians on the
Euphrates, and then was carried off in chains to Egypt, while Necho set
up Eliakim, or Jehoiakim, another brother, in his stead. Jehoiakim was
idolatrous, cruel, and violent; he persecuted the prophets, and did
everything to draw on himself the punishment of Heaven. Necho, making
another invasion, was defeated by the great Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,
and hunted back by him into Egypt. On his way Nebuchadnezzar seized
Jerusalem, in the year 606, and carried off some of the treasures of
the Temple, and many of the royal family, to Babylon, among them the
four holy children, but he let Jehoiakim continue to reign as his
vassal. Jeremiah prophesied that the time of captivity and desolation
should last seventy years from this time, but the worst was not yet
come. Jehoiakim was bent on trusting for help to the Egyptians, who had
made him king, and treated Jeremiah as a traitor for counselling him to
be loyal to the Assyrians; he threw Jeremiah into prison, and when
Baruch read the roll of his prophecies in the Temple, he caused it to
be cut to pieces and destroyed. At last he rebelled, relying on help
from Egypt, but it did not come, for Necho was dying; and in the year
598, Nebuchadnezzar himself came up against Jerusalem, and besieged it.
Jehoiakim died in the midst of the war, and his equally wicked son,
Jehoiachin, Coniah, or Jeconiah, was soon forced to come out, and
surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, who dishonoured his father's corpse, and
carried him away to Babylon, with the chief treasures of the Temple,
and a great multitude of warriors and mechanics. Among them was the
prophet Ezekiel, who, on the banks of the Chebar, saw mighty visions of
the chariot of God borne up by the Cherubim; and while he rebuked the
present Jews for their crimes, promised restoration, and beheld the new
and more perfect Building of God measured out by the angel. A marble
cylinder with most of this prophecy engraven on it in Assyrian
characters, has lately been found in the ruins near the Tigris.
The last son of Josiah, Mattanias, or Zedekiah, was set up as king,
and reigned for eleven years; like his brothers, wavering and sinning,
and trusting to false prophets, instead of Jeremiah, who gave him hopes
of rest, if he would only bear his present fallen state meekly, and not
trust to Egypt. The counsellors who loved Egypt, however, persuaded him
to rebel, as Pharaoh Hophra was actually coming out to his assistance;
and he put Jeremiah into prison for prophesying that he would bring
ruin on himself, Nebuchadnezzar soon marched upon him, and besieged
Jerusalem; and his friend, Pharaoh Hophra, left him to his fate,
showing himself the broken reed that Jeremiah had said he would prove.
The siege of Jerusalem lasted a year, and no one suffered more than the
prophet, who was thrown into a noisome prison, and afterwards lowered
into a pit, where he nearly died; but not for all this did he cease to
denounce the judgments of God on the rebellious city. Horrible famine
prevailed, and the streets were full of dead; but Jeremiah told the
king, that if he would go out and make terms with Nebuchadnezzar all
might yet be saved. But Zedekiah would not listen, and at last broke
out with his men of war to cut his way through the enemy. His self-will
met its deserts; he was taken by Nebuzaradan, the captain who had been
left to carry on the siege, and brought a prisoner to Babylon, after
his sons had been slain in his very sight, and his eyes then put out,
according to a prophecy of Ezekiel, which he is said to have thought
impossible; namely, that he should die at Babylon, and yet never see
The Temple was stripped of the last remains of its glory, and
utterly overthrown, the walls were broken down, and the place left
desolate; the Edomites who were in the conqueror's army savagely
exulting in the fall of their kindred nation; but both Psalm cxxxvii.
and the Prophet Obadiah spoke of vengeance in store for them likewise.
All the Jews of high rank were carried away, and none left but the
poorer sort, who were to till the ground under a ruler named Gedaliah.
Jeremiah, who was offered his choice of going to Babylon or remaining
in Judea, preferred to continue near the once glorious city, whose
solitude and ruin he bewailed in the mournful Book of Lamentations; and
he did his utmost to persuade the remaining Jews to rest quietly under
the dominion of Assyria. Had they done so, there would yet have been
peace; but Ishmael, a prince of the seed royal, who had fled to the
Ammonites during the invasion, came back, and in the hope of making
himself king murdered Gedaliah at a harvest feast, with many Jews and
Chaldeans, and was on his way to his friend, the King of Ammon, when
Johanan, a friend of Gedaliah, came upon him and slew many of his
party, so that he escaped with only eight men to the Ammonites. So
shocked were the Jews at this murder of Gedaliah, that they ever after
kept a fast on the anniversary. Johanan now asked counsel from
Jeremiah, who still enjoined him to submit to the Assyrians, but
assured him that if he went to Egypt it would only be to share the ruin
of that country; but Johanan and his friends would not listen, and
carried all the remnant of Judah, and Jeremiah himself, off by force
into Egypt. All this happened in the miserable year 588, and Jerusalem
remained utterly waste, the land enjoying a long sabbath of desolation,
What became of Jeremiah afterwards is not known; he is said to have
been stoned in Egypt, but this is not at all certain. He left behind
him the promise that a Deliverer should come—the Lord our
Righteousness—and that the former redemption out of bondage in Egypt
should be as nothing in comparison with the ingathering of the New
Covenant from the north country and from all countries; also that the
New Covenant should be within, written upon the hearts and minds of the
LESSON XI. BABYLON.
“By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered
thee, O Sion.”—Psalm cxxxvii, 1.
Babylon, the city which was to be the place of captivity of the
Jews, was the home of the Chaldeans, who are believed not to have been
the sons of Gush, like the Assyrians whom they had conquered at
Nineveh, but to have been at first a wandering tribe of the north, and
to have descended from Japhet. They had nearly the same gods as the
Ninevites, but thought the special protector of their city was
Bel-Merodach, the name by which they called the planet Jupiter. They
were such great observers of the courses of the stars, that astronomy
is said to have begun with them; but this was chiefly because they
fancied that the heavenly bodies would help them to foretel coming
events, for they put great faith in soothsayers. They settled upon the
bank of the Euphrates, near the ruins of the Tower of Babel, round
which a city arose, sometimes free, sometimes under the power of the
King of Nineveh.
In the time of the weak and luxurious Saracus, Nabopolassar was
governor of Babylon. He joined himself to the Medea, giving his son,
Nebuchadnezzar, in marriage to the Median Princess Amytis; and as has
already been said, the two nations together destroyed Nineveh, after
which, Babylon became the head of the Assyrian Empire, and
Nebuchadnezzar was the king.
He made the city exceedingly grand and beautiful. It was fifty five
miles in circuit, square, surrounded by a wall eighty-seven feet thick,
and three hundred and fifty high, with houses and a street on the top,
and an enormous ditch filled with water all round, another lesser wall
some way within. There were one hundred brazen gates in the wall,
besides two larger gateways upon the Euphrates, which ran through the
middle, dividing the city into two parts. It was full of streets and
houses, with such fields and vineyards, that it was like a whole
country walled in; and the soil was exceedingly rich, being all brought
down from the Armenian hills by the Euphrates. As this river rose in
the mountains of Armenia, it used to overflow in the spring, when the
snows melted and swelled the stream; but to prevent mischief, the
country was covered with a network of canals, to draw off the water in
safety. The pride of the city was the Temple of Bel, which is thought
to have been built on a fragment of the Tower of Babel. It was a pile
of enormous height, with seven stages in honour of the seven planets
then known, and with a winding ascent leading from one to the other. On
the top was the shrine, where stood Bel's golden image, twelve cubits
high, and before it a golden table where meats and wine were served up
to him. On either side of the river were two palaces, joined together
by a bridge, and the nearer one, four miles round, with wonderful
grounds, containing what were called the hanging gardens, namely, a
hill which Nebuchadnezzar had caused to be raised by heaping up earth,
and planted with trees, to please his Median queen, whose eye pined for
her native mountains in the flats of Babylon.
There must have been other eyes at Babylon wearying for their own
free heights, for there the captives of Judah bore the punishment of
their fathers' sins and their own, and repented so completely, that
they never returned to their idolatry. When in 606, Nebuchadnezzar
carried to Babylon Jehoiachin and the nobles of Judah, he commanded
that some of the royal children should be brought up as slaves to serve
in his palace, and gave them new names after his gods. Daniel, Ananias,
Azarias, and Misael, gave their first proof of their obedience to the
Law of their God in their exile and slavery, by denying themselves the
choice meats set before them, lest they should eat of some forbidden
thing, and living only on dry beans and water. So blessed was their
abstinence, that they excelled all the other youths both in beauty and
in wisdom, and were soon promoted above them. Soon after, Daniel was
shown to be a prophet, for God inspired him, not merely with the
meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's perplexing dream, but revealed to him the
dream itself, which the king had forgotten. That dream was the
emblematic history of the world. It was an image with a head of gold,
shoulders of silver, thighs of brass, legs of iron, feet partly of
iron, partly of clay, all overthrown together by a stone cut out
without hands from a mountain. Great Babylon was the head, soon to give
way to the less splendid Persian power, then again to the Greek
dominion, and lastly to the iron rule of Rome, which would grow weak
and mixed with miry clay, till at last all would be overthrown and
subdued by the Stone which the builders rejected.
After this wonderful interpretation, Daniel became a chief ruler
under Nebuchadnezzar, and even in his youth, his name was a very
proverb for wisdom and holiness. He judged among the Jews, and confuted
the two wicked elders who sought to bring about the death of Susanna;
and he probably stood too high to be accused, when, soon after the
taking of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar threw the three other princes into
the fiery furnace, for refusing to bow down to the golden image on the
plains of Dura. Then the fiery blast was to them as a moist whistling
wind, and even the tyrant beheld the Form like the Son of God, walking
with them in the midst of the flame, while they sung that hymn which
calls every created thing to praise the Lord. The miracle seems not to
have been witnessed by a heart hardened against belief Nebuchadnezzar
proclaimed the glory of the God who could work such miracles, and whose
instrument of vengeance he himself was. Edom was soon after conquered
by Nebuchadnezzar, thus fulfilling many prophecies.
Another great work which was set for him to do, was to give the
first great overthrow to the Phoenicians, and fulfil the prophecies of
Isaiah and Ezekiel, by destroying Tyre. The siege lasted thirteen
years, and the besiegers suffered as much as the besieged, till, as
Ezekiel had foretold, every head was bald, every shoulder peeled with
the burdens that were carried; but at last it was taken in the year
573, and so utterly destroyed, that not a trace was left of it. It had
been said by Isaiah, that after seventy years Tyre should take her harp
and sing again, and return for a time to her former splendour and
corruption; and thus it happened, for a new Tyre arose upon a little
island at some little distance from the shore.
Ezekiel had promised the Chaldeans that the toils of Tyre should be
repaid by the spoil of Egypt, the land that was henceforth to be a
slave for ever; and in 574, Nebuchadnezzar marched thither, and
conquered it with the utmost ease, there being at that time a quarrel
among the Egyptians, which weakened their hands; Hophra, the last of
the Pharaohs, was slain by a rebel, and Egypt has never more been free,
or under native rulers. The Ammonites too, were put down for ever by
Nebuchadnezzar, and he came home puffed up with the pride of conquest.
Then came another warning dream, of a tree, great and spreading, the
rest and stay of bird and beast, till a watcher and a holy one came
down and bade that it should be cut down, and only a stump to be left,
to be wet with the dew of Heaven until it should recover. It was no
wonder that Daniel was astonished for one hour ere he explained the
vision, which bore that the great conqueror should lose his reason, be
chased from the haunts of men, and live like the beasts, with hair like
eagle's feathers, and nails like eagle's claws. Nebuchadnezzar does not
seem to have punished him for thus revealing the will of God; and time
went on, while the city grew more magnificent under the builder's hand,
till at last, in the pride of his heart, the king made his boast, “Is
not this great Babylon that I have builded, for the house of the
kingdom, and for the honour of my majesty?”
That moment, the watcher cried from Heaven, and sense and strength
fled from the mighty Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from men, and lived
seven years among the beasts of the field, till for one year, reason
was mercifully restored to him, and he made the best use of it in
publishing to all the world the story of his pride and of his fall, and
with all his heart honouring the King of Heaven, whose works are truth,
and His ways are judgment.
This humbled conqueror died in 563, and was succeeded by his son,
Evil-Merodach, who released the captive Jehoiachin, and made him eat at
his own table until his death. Two more kings succeeded, each reigning
but a few years, and then came Belshazzar, in the first year of whose
reign Daniel had a vision, where the like events as were shown by the
dream of Nebuchadnezzar, were foreshadowed under the form of animals,
typifying the several empires. Four beasts came from the sea: the lion
with eagle's wings was his own Assyria, but was set aside by the
devouring bear of Persia; then followed the flying four-headed leopard
of Greece; and lastly, the dreadful and terrible destroying creature,
meaning Rome, which ground with iron teeth, and brake all in pieces. It
had ten horns, which are believed to mean the kingdoms into which Rome
was divided in later times, and one which destroyed some of the others,
and became blasphemous, till all was lost in an awful manifestation of
the Ancient of Days coming to judgment. This little horn is thought to
mean the spirit of Antichrist, and the great falling away which is to
prevail in the latter days, but the end is not yet.
A second vision was sent two years after, likewise of emblematic
beasts, and was likewise explained by an angel. A ram, pushing west,
north, and southwards, was Persia, whose victory was already nigh, even
at the door; but in his full power came from the west the Grecian
he-goat, who overthrew the ram, and stamped on him, and waxed great;
but then his one great horn was broken, and four others rose up, four
lesser kings instead of one great conqueror; and one of these produced
a lesser horn, which wrought woe and ruin to the pleasant land. This
horn was not meant, like the first, to typify the sinful one of the
latter Christian days, but a terrible foe, who was to try the faith of
the Jews; and all these visions seem to have been intended to show,
that though prophecy, and God's visible dealings with His people, were
so nearly over, yet all kingdoms and empires are His, and are founded,
flourish, and decay at His will.
LESSON XII. CYRUS.
“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, then were we like
unto them that dream.”—Psalm cxxvi. 1.
The Persian power, prefigured by the silver shoulders, the bear and
the ram, was indeed nigh. The ram had two horns, because two nations
were joined together, the Medes, who had revolted from Nineveh, and the
Persians. The Medes lived in the slopes towards the Tigris, and had
learnt to be luxurious and indolent from their Assyrian neighbours; but
the Persians, who lived in the mountains to the eastward, were much
more spirited and simpler, and purer in life. They are thought to be
sons of Japhet, and their religion had not lost all remains of truth,
for they believed in but one God, and had no idols, except that they
adored the sun as the emblem of divine power, and kept horses in his
honour, because they thought he drove his car of light round the sky.
They worshipped fire likewise as the sign of the light-giving and
consuming Godhead; and this notion is not entirely gone yet, so that
there are many Parsees, or fireworshippers, still in the East. Their
priests were called Magi, and their faith was therefore termed Magian.
Though it went astray in adoring these created things, yet it did not
teach wickedness, as did the religions of the sons of Ham; and the
Persians were a brave, upright race, who loved hardy, simple ways, and
said the chief things their sons ought to learn were, to ride, to draw
the bow, and speak the truth.
Cyrus was the son of a Persian king and Median princess, and had
been so well brought up at home, that when as a little boy he visited
his grandfather at Echatana, in Media, he was very much shocked to see
the court drinking to intoxication, and said wine must be poison, since
it made people lose their senses; and he was much puzzled by the hosts
of slaves who would not let people do anything for themselves. He
thought only those who were old and helpless could like being waited
on, and he kept these hardy, simple ways, even after he was a great
king over both nations.
When he was about forty years old one of the kings in Asia Minor
made war on him, and he not only overthrew this monarch, but won that
whole country, which was kept by the Persians for many years.
Afterwards, in the year 540, he marched against Assyria, which had
insulted him in the time of Evil-Merodach. He beat Belshazzar in
battle, and then besieged him in his city; but the Babylonians had no
fears; they trusted to their walls and brazen gates, and knew that he
could not starve them out, as they had so much corn growing within the
walls. For two years they remained in security, and laughed at the
Persian army outside; but at last Cyrus devised a new plan, and set his
men to dig trenches to draw off the water of the Euphrates, and leave
the bed of the river dry. Still there were the great gates upon the
river, which he expected to have to break down; but on the very day his
trenches were ready, Belshazzar was giving a great feast in his palace,
and drinking wine out of the golden vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had
brought from the Temple.
Full in the midst of his revelry appeared a strange sight. Near the
seven-branched Candlestick that once had burnt in the Holy Place, came
forth a bodiless hand, and the fingers wrote upon the wall in
characters such as no man knew. The hearts of the revellers failed them
for fear, and the king's knees smote together! Then Nitocris, his
mother, a brave and wise woman, bethought her of all that Daniel had
done in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and at her advice he was called
for. He knew the words; they were in the Hebrew tongue, the language of
his own Scriptures, the same in which the Finger of God revealed the
Commandments. He read them, and they signified, “God hath numbered thy
kingdom, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances, and found
wanting. Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians!”
At that moment Cyrus and his Persians were entering by the river
gates, which had been left open in that time of careless festivity. One
end of the city knew not that the other was taken; and ere the night
was past Belshazzar lay dead in his palace, and the Assyrian empire was
over for ever.
It was 170 years since, by the mouth of Isaiah, God had called Cyrus
by name, had said He would give the nations as dust to his sword, and
stubble to his bow; had said of him that he was His anointed and His
shepherd, and that he would build up the Holy City and Temple, and let
the captives go free without money or price. Moreover, it was seventy
years since Daniel himself had been carried away from the pleasant
land, and well had he counted the weary days prophesied of by Jeremiah;
till now he hoped the time was come, and most earnestly did he pray,
looking towards Jerusalem, as Solomon had entreated, when his people
should turn to God in the land of their captivity, pleading God's
goodness and mercy, though owning that Judah had done wickedly. Even
while he was yet speaking came the answer by the mouth of the Angel
Gabriel; and not only was it the present deliverance that it announced,
but that from the building of the street and wall in troublous times,
seventy weeks of years were appointed to bring the Anointed, so long
promised, the real Deliverer.
Daniel's prayers had won, and in the first year of Cyrus, 536, forth
went the joyful decree that Judah should return, build up the city and
Temple, and receive back their sacred vessels and treasure from the
king, to aid them in their work. Daniel being nearly ninety years old,
did not go with them, but remained to protect them at the court of
Babylon. Cyrus set up his uncle, who is commonly called Darius, to be
king in Babylon, while he returned to Persia; and Daniel, though so old
a man, was made one of the chief rulers under him, one of the three
presidents over the hundred and twenty satraps or princes over the
provinces of the great Persian empire. The envy of the Medes caused
them to persuade Darius by foolish flattery to say that whoever for a
month should make request of god or man, save of the king, should be
cast into a den of lions, and Daniel, who was not likely in his old age
to cease from prayer to his God for any terror of man, endured the
penalty, much against the king's will; but only that again God's power
might be known among the heathen, and His glory proclaimed by the
shutting the mouths of the hungry lions. About the same time he seems
to have shown Darius, who, though not an idolater himself, was puzzled
by seeing that the victuals daily spread on Bel's golden table always
disappeared, that after all, the idol was not the consumer. He spread
ashes on the floor at night, and in the morning showed the king the
tell-tale footmarks of men, women, and children, the priests and their
families, the true devourers of the feast. No wonder that after this,
the Persians ruined the Temple of Bel, while decay began in Babylon,
and the river never being turned back into its proper bed, spread into
unwholesome marshes. Daniel, when at Susa, a Median city on the river
Ulai, beheld his last vision, when the Angel Gabriel prophesied to him
in detail all the wars of the Persians, and afterwards of the Greek
kings of Egypt and Syria, who should make Judea their battlefield, and
the afflictions of the Jews under the great Syrian persecutor. He ended
with a sure promise to Daniel himself, that he should “stand in his
lot” when the end of all things should come; and some time after this
blessed assurance, died this “man greatly beloved,” a prince, a slave,
an exile, and a statesman, perhaps the most wonderful of all the sons
of David, except the great Anointed One of whom he spoke. His tomb is
still deeply reverenced, and no one is allowed to fish near the part of
the river where he is said to have seen his vision.
Cyrus died about seven years after Daniel, much loved by his people,
who, for many years, would not believe him dead, but trusted he would
yet return to rule over them.
LESSON XIII. THE REBUILDING OF THE
“The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, and gather together the outcasts
of Israel.”—Psalm clxxvii. 2.
42,360 was the number of Jews who returned to their own land by the
permission of Cyrus. They were under the keeping of Joshua the High
Priest, and of Zerubbabel, son of Salathiel, who was either by birth,
son of King Jehoiachin, or else had been adopted by him from the line
of Nathan, son of David. In either way, he was head of the house of
David, and would have been king, had not the crown been taken away
because of the sin of his fathers. He had, it is said, won favour at
the court of Darius the Mede by his cleverness in a contention of wits,
where each man was asked what was the strongest thing in existence. One
said it was wine, because it made men lose their senses; another said
it was the king, because of his great power; but Zerubbabel said it was
woman, and so ingeniously proved how women could sway the minds of men,
that the king was delighted, and promised to give him whatever he would
ask. What Zerubbabel requested was, that the decree of Cyrus might at
once be put in force, so that his people might go home to their own
country. Darius consented, and put into his hands orders that the
vessels of the Temple, and all the other sacred things, together with a
large sum of money, should be given to him; and thus he went forth,
praising and blessing God. Some of the dispersed of Israel joined the
returning Jews, and were thenceforth counted among them; but so many of
Judah itself had become settled in the place of their exile, that they
never returned, though they sent gifts to assist in rebuilding
Jerusalem. It used to be said that only the bran, or coarse sort of
people, returned, the fine flour remained; but it must have in truth
been in general the lovers of ease who stayed, the faithful who loved
poverty in the Promised Land better than wealth at Babylon.
Zerubbabel was called Tirshatha, or governor. His kingdom was gone,
but his right remained to the fields of Boaz and Jesse at Bethlehem;
and thence should “He come forth Whose goings are from everlasting.”
The true birthright was not lost by this son of Solomon, whom God
blessed by the lips of Zechariah for having laid the foundation of His
Temple, and not having despised the day of small things. The blessings
to the Priest, Joshua, were foreshadowings of Him Whose Name he bore,
and Whose office he represented.
All was ruin and desolation; heaps of stones lay where beauteous
buildings had been, and the fields and vineyards lay waste; but glad
promises came by the mouth of Zechariah, that these empty streets
should yet be filled with merry children at play, and with aged men
leaning on their staves, at peace and at ease.
The first thing done by these faithful men, was to set up an Altar
among the ruins, where they might offer the daily sacrifice once more.
Then they began the Temple, in the second year after their return; the
trumpeters blew with silver trumpets, the Levites sang, and the people
shouted; but what was joy to the young, whose hope was fulfilled, was
grief to the old, who had seen Solomon's Temple in its glory. Where was
the Ark? where the manna? where the Urim and Thummim? where the Light
upon the Mercy-seat? Gone for ever, and heaps of ruins around! The old
men wept as the youths cried out for joy, and the shout of rejoicing
could barely be heard for the sound of wailing. But Haggai was sent to
console them with the promise, that though this House was as nothing in
their eyes, its glory should exceed that of the former one, for the
Desire of all nations should come and fill this House with glory.
Haggai had likewise to rebuke the people for their slackness in the
work, and for building their own houses instead of the Temple, and soon
they fell into trouble. The men of Samaria, children of those whom
Esarhaddon had planted there, came, saying that they worshipped the God
of the Jews, and wished to be one with them; but these half idolaters
would soon have corrupted the Jews, so Zerubbabel and Joshua refused
their offers. This made them bitter foes to the Jewish nation, and they
wrote to the Persian court, saying that these newly returned exiles
were no better than a set of rebels, who would destroy the king's
power, if they were allowed to rebuild their city. Cyrus was dead, and
his son, Cambyses, (called also Ahasuerus) who was a cruel selfish
tyrant, at once forbade the work to go on, so that it was at a
standstill for many years.
The wealth and luxury of Babylon were fast spoiling the Persians,
who were losing their hardy ways, and with them their honour, mercy,
and truth; and Cambyses was a very savage wretch, almost mad. He made
war on Egypt, where he gained a battle by putting a number of cows,
dogs, and cats, in front of his army, and as the Egyptians thought
these creatures sacred, they dared not throw their darts at them, and
so fled away. He won the whole country; and he afterwards marched into
Ethiopia, where he nearly lost his whole army by thirst in a desert.
The Egyptians hated him because he struck his sword into their sacred
bull Apis, in his anger at their feasting in honour of this creature,
when he himself had just met with such misfortunes. He had but one
brother, named Smerdis, whom he caused to be secretly put to death; and
when his sister wept for him, he kicked her so that she died. No one
grieved when he was killed by a chance wound from his own sword, in the
year 522; but a young Magian priest, pretending to be Smerdis, whose
death was not generally known, became king. However, some of the nobles
suspected the deceit; and one of them, whose daughter was among the
many wives of the king, sent word to her to find out whether the king
were the real Smerdis. She could not tell, having never seen the Prince
Smerdis; but her father, who knew that the young Magian had had his
ears cut off for some offence, told her to examine. She Answered that
the king was earless; and the fraud being thus detected, seven of the
great lords combined and slew him. One daughter of Cyrus still remained
and the seven agreed that one of them should marry her and reign. The
rest should have the right of visiting him whenever they pleased, and
wearing the same sort of tiara, or high cap, with the point upright,
instead of having it turned back like the rest of the Persians. The
choice was to be settled by Heaven, as they thought; namely, by seeing
whose horse would first neigh at the rise of their god, the sun. Darius
Hystaspes, who thus became king in 521, was a good and upright man, in
whose reign the Jews ventured to go on with the Temple. When the
Samaritans came and stopped them, they wrote to beg that search might
be made among the records of the kingdom for Cyrus's decree in their
favour, which no one could change, because the laws of the Medes and
Persians could not be altered. The decree was found, and Darius gave
the Jews farther help, and forbade anyone to molest them; but they were
very poor, and the restoration went on but feebly.
In Darius's reign Babylon revolted, and he laid siege to it. So
determined were the inhabitants to hold out, that they killed their
wives and children in order that the provisions might last longer, and
thus they fulfilled what Isaiah had foretold—that in one day the loss
of children and widowhood would come on them. The place was at last
betrayed by a friend of Darius, who cut off his own nose and ears, and
showed himself bleeding, at the gates, pretending the king had done him
this cruel injury. The Babylonians received and trusted him, and he
soon opened the gates to his master, who terribly punished the rebels,
destroyed as much as he could of the Temple of Bel, and left the city
to go to decay, so that she never again was the Lady of Kingdoms.
Darius was a great King, and records of his history are still to be
read, cut out in the face of the rocks; but he tried two conquests that
were far beyond his strength. He led an army into the bare and dreary
country of the Scythians, the wild sons of Japhet, near the mouth of
the Danube, and there would have been almost starved to death, but that
a faithful camel loaded with provisions kept close to him. He also sent
a large fleet and army to subdue the brave and wise Greeks, who lived
in the isles and peninsulas opposite to Asia Minor, thinking he should
easily bring them under his dominion, but they met his troops at
Marathon, and gained a great victory, driving the Persians home with
Darius died in 485, and his son, Xerxes, who Daniel had said should
stir up all the east against Grecia, led a huge army to conquer that
brave little country. All the nations of the east were there, and
Xerxes made a bridge of boats chained together over the Hellespont, for
them to cross over. So proud and hasty was he, that when a storm
destroyed his works, he caused the waves to be scourged, and fetters to
be thrown into the sea, to punish it for having dared to resist him. He
sat on his throne to see the army pass over the bridge, and as he saw
the multitudes, he wept to think how soon they must all be dead, but he
did not cease from sending them to their death. Though they were so
many, the Greeks were much braver, and though they overran all the
north part of the country, after they had killed the few brave
defenders of the little pass of Thermopylae, they could not keep what
they had taken; they were beaten both by land and sea, and a very small
remnant came home to Persia in a wretched state. Xerxes was a weak vain
boaster, and was very angry; he wanted to make another attempt, but
never did so; he stayed at home feasting with his wives and living in
luxury, till he was murdered, in the year 464.
LESSON XIV. THE WALL REBUILT.
“They that be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shall
raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called
the repairer of the breach.”—Isaiah, lviii. 12.
There is great difficulty as to what the Persian kings were called;
their real names were very hard to pronounce, and they are commonly
known by words that mean a king, instead of by their real names. This
makes people uncertain whether the king who is called Ahasuerus in the
Book of Esther be the same with him whom the Greeks call Xerxes, or
with Artaxerxes the Long-armed, his son. It was one or other of these
kings who made a great banquet at his palace at Shuahan or Susa, where
the remains of the pillars that supported the many-coloured hangings of
his palace are still to be seen. After seven days' feasting, he sent in
his pride for Vashti, his queen, to show her beauty to his companions.
It was, as it is still in Persia and most eastern countries, a shame
and disgrace for a woman's face to be seen by any man save her husband;
and Vashti refused this insulting command of the king. He was persuaded
by the satraps that her example would teach all other ladies to think
for themselves, which did not suit these selfish men, who did not care
to have a wife for a help-meet, but only for a slave and toy; so that
poor Vashti was set aside and degraded for being a modest woman; and
the tyrant sent and swept away every beautiful girl from her home, to
be brought to his palace on trial, and if she did not become queen, to
be a slave for ever. Thus the young Benjamite orphan, Esther, whom her
kinsman, Mordecai, had tenderly trained in the right way, was taken
away, never to see his face again, but to live in the multitude of
slavish heathen women, who were taught no kind of employment, and
thought even spinning and embroidery unworthy of a queen. But even the
king's passion was made to serve God's ends. It was for no vain purpose
that the noble beauty of the family of Saul had come down to Esther,
and though she alone demanded no ornaments to set her off to advantage,
she was the only maiden who took the king's fancy. Mordecai, her
cousin, soon after found out a plot against the king's life, and
sending her warning, she told the king, and he was thus saved. Mordecai
daily sat at the palace gate to hear of his beloved cousin, and there
daily saw the king's new counsellor pass by—Haman, an Agagite,
descended from that hateful Amalekite nation, whom Saul ought to have
totally destroyed. Mordecai would not bow before the man whom his law
had taught him to loathe; and Haman, taking offence, and remembering
the old enmity between the two nations, that had begun at the battle of
Rephidim, promised the king 10,000 talents of silver for permission to
let their enemies loose upon the Jews in their still unwalled city, and
destroy them everywhere by a general slaughter. The king actually
granted this horrible request, though without taking the bribe; and
Haman, setting the royal seal to his decree, made it one of the
unalterable Persian laws. The day was fixed for the massacre, and Haman
prepared an enormous gallows on which to hang Mordecai, or as is
supposed, to nail him up alive. But Mordecai contrived to warn Esther,
and order her to persuade the king to save their lives. She was in a
great strait, for it was death to enter the king's presence unbidden,
unless he were in the mood to show mercy, and should hold out his
golden sceptre; but in her extremity she took courage, arrayed herself
royally, and came before him, fainting with fear. The Power above
stirred his heart, and he held out the sceptre; but she dared not
accuse his favourite, and only asked him and Haman together to a
banquet in her apartments. Twice she received them before she took
courage to speak; but at last she told the king that she and her people
were sold to utter destruction. He demanded in anger who had dared to
do this. “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman,” she said: and
when the king found how horrible a decree had been surprised from him,
and that the gallows had been made ready for the queen's cousin, the
man who had saved his life, he flew into such a rage, that he caused
Haman to be hung on his own gallows at once, and all his sons to be
slain with him. Still the order to destroy the Jews had gone forth, and
could not be repealed, but Mordecai obtained that the Jews should be
allowed to arm themselves; and having due notice, they defended
themselves so well that they killed 800 of their enemies at Susa, and
75,000 of the spiteful Samaritans and other foes who had come upon them
Esther's power with the king seems to have done more for the Jews,
and a new gift was sent from the treasury to Jerusalem, under the care
of Ezra, a man of the seed of Aaron, and very learned in the Law. He
gave himself up to the work, which had sadly languished since
Zerubbabel's time; and he began in the right way, for ere entering the
Glorious Land, he halted all the companions of his pilgrimage, and
fasted three days, entreating the Lord for forgiveness, and protection
from their enemies. It is from this time, about 458, that the seventy
weeks of years, mentioned by Daniel, began to be counted, perhaps
because till this time the work hardly proceeded in earnest. Another
great helper soon followed Ezra, namely Nehemiah, one of the palace
slaves, who, hearing of the miserable state of Jerusalem, prayed with
all his heart, weeping so bitterly that when he went to wait upon the
king and Queen Esther at their meal, they remarked his trouble; and on
their asking the cause, he told them, with secret prayers, how his
heart was grieved that his city and his fathers' sepulchres lay waste,
and begged for permission to go with authority to Jerusalem, to assist
in the rebuilding. His request was granted, authority was given to him,
and he set off with a train of servants and guards, for he was a very
rich man; but when he came near, he left them all, and rode on by night
to examine the state of the city. Most sad was the sight; the gates
broken and burnt, and the walls lying in ruins, the streets blocked up
so that no one could pass! Nehemiah at once encouraged the Jews to set
to work, and build up the breaches; and they heartily began, while he
kept open house at his own expense for all his poor brethren. Down upon
them came the Samaritans again, scoffing at those “feeble Jews,” saying
that a fox could break down their wall, and then attacking them; so
that Nehemiah was forced to set a constant watch, and the workmen built
with their swords ever ready for use. When the walls once more girded
around the city built upon the hill, the inhabitants were no longer
easily molested by their foes; and a great assembly was held, when Ezra
read and explained the Law, for seven days, at the feast of the
Tabernacles, after which there was a great fast and confession of sin,
and the Covenant was solemnly renewed. Still a great purification was
needed; the Sabbath had become ill observed, many of the people, even
priests and Levites, had married heathen wives, and one of the sons of
the High Priest was son-in-law to Sanballat, the worst enemy of the
Jews. Ezra and Nehemiah brought many to a sense of their sin: no
burdens were allowed to be touched on the Sabbath, and the heathen
wives were put away; but this priest refusing to part with his wife,
was thrust out from the priesthood, and was received by the Samaritans,
who afterwards built a schismatical temple upon Gerizim, the Mount of
At this time lived Malachi, the last of the prophets, who left the
promise of the coming of the Prophet Elijah, as the forerunner of the
Messiah, and of the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Ezra is
believed to have composed the Books of Kings from older writings, under
the guidance of inspiration, to have collected the latter part of the
book of Psalms, and to have been taught to discern which histories, and
which books of the Prophets to keep, and which to cast aside. The
Scriptures were all put under the keeping of scribes, who wrote the
copies out with the utmost care, and were held guilty if the smallest
point or mark failed; and a roll was placed under the care of the
priests, besides many others which were dispersed through the country,
that they might never be forgotten again. Ezra likewise arranged, that
in places too far from Jerusalem for people to come weekly to worship
at the Temple, there should be synagogues, or places of meeting for
prayer, though of course not for sacrifice. There, every Sabbath day,
eighteen prayers were appointed to be said, and lessons from the
Scripture were read aloud and explained. In their exile, the Jews had
forgotten their Hebrew tongue, and learnt to speak Chaldean, so that
after the Law was read in their own language, a scribe stood up to
translate and explain it, and thus they were saved from forgetting the
Scripture, as they had done in the time of Josiah, and from resorting
to groves and high places for worship. Idolatry was so thoroughly
purged out of them, that they never returned to it; and their hope of
the Messiah was kept alive, though they had no new prophets.
They enjoyed quiet and peace for many years; and most of the Jews
who were settled in other countries—in Persia, Babylon, and
Egypt—came from time to time to keep the feasts, and make offerings;
while those settled near enough kept the three yearly pilgrimages to
Jerusalem, singing, as it is believed, the beautiful psalms called in
the Bible the Songs of Degrees, as the parties from towns and villages
went up together in procession towards the Hill of Sion.
In the meantime, their masters, the Persian kings, grew worse and
worse; brother killed brother, son rose against father, and the women
even committed horrible crimes. They invented tortures too horrid to
mention, and lived between savage cruelty and vain luxury, till there
was no strength nor courage in them, and in less than 200 years from
the time that Cyrus had conquered Babylon, their realm was rotten, and
their time of ruin was come. All through this time, the Jews were
chiefly ruled by the high priests, though paying tribute to the Persian
king, and sometimes visited by the Satrap of the Province of Syria, to
which Palestine belonged.
LESSON XV. ALEXANDER.
“Ships shall come from Chittim, and shall afflict Eber, and shall
afflict Assur.”—Num. xxiv. 24.
Mountain lands, small islets, and peninsulas broken into by deep
bays and gulfs, rise to the northward of the east end of the
Mediterranean, and were known to the Jews as the Isles of the Gentiles.
The people who dwelt in them have been named Greeks; they were sons of
Japhet, and were the race whom God endowed, above all others, with
gifts of the body and mind, though without bestowing on them the light
of His truth. They had many idols, of whom Zeus, the Thunderer, was the
chief; but they did not worship them with cruel rites like the
Phoenicians, and some of their beautiful stories about them were full
of traces of better things. Their best and wisest men were always
straining their minds to feel after more satisfying knowledge of Him,
Who, they felt sure, must rule and govern all things; and sometimes
these philosophers, as they were called, came very near the truth.
Every work of the Greeks was well done, whether poems, history,
speeches, buildings, statues, or painting; and the remains have served
for patterns ever since. At first there were many separate little
states, but all held together as one nation, and used to meet for great
feasts, especially for games. There were the Olympian games, by which
they reckoned the years, and the Isthmean, which were held at the
Isthmus of Corinth. Everyone came to see the wrestling, boxing, racing,
and throwing heavy weights, and to hear the poems sung or recited; and
the men who excelled all the rest were carried high in air with shouts
of joy, and crowned with wreaths of laurel, bay, oak, or parsley, one
of the greatest honours a Greek could obtain. Of all the cities, Athens
had the ablest men, and Sparta the most hardy; and these two had been
the foremost in beating and turning back the great Persian armies of
Darius and Xerxes; but since that time there had been quarrels between
these two powers, and they grew weak, so that Philip, King of Macedon,
who had a kingdom to the north of them, and was but half a real Greek,
contrived to conquer them all, and make them his subjects.
The ensign of Macedon was a he-goat, the rough goat that Daniel had
seen in his vision; and the time was come for the fall of the Ram of
Persia. Philip's son, Alexander, set his heart on conquering the old
enemy of Greece; and as soon as he came to the crown, in the year 333,
though he was but twenty years of age, he led his army across the
Hellespont into Asia Minor. His army was very brave, and excellently
trained by his father, and he himself was one of the most highly-gifted
men who ever lived, brave and prudent, seldom cruel, and trying to do
good to all who fell under his power. The poor weak luxurious Persian
King, Darius, could do little against such a man, and indeed did not
come out to battle in the way to conquer; for he carried with him all
the luxuries of his palace, his mother, and all his wives and slaves.
Before his army marched a number of men carrying silver altars, on
which burnt the sacred fire; then came three hundred and sixty-five
youths in scarlet dresses, to represent the days of the year; then the
Magi, and the gilded chariot and white horses of the Sun; and next, the
king's favourite soldiers, called the Immortal Band, whose robes were
white, their breastplates set with jewels, and the handles of their
spears golden. They had small chance with the bold active Greeks; and
at the Battle of the Issus they were routed, and Darius fled away,
leaving all his women to the mercy of the conqueror. The poor old
Persian Queen, his mother, had never met with such gentle respect and
courtesy as Alexander showed to her old age; he always called her
mother, never sat down before her but at her request, and never grieved
her but once, and that was by showing her a robe that his mother and
sisters had spun, woven, and embroidered for him, and offering to have
her grandchildren taught the like works. She fancied this meant that he
was treating them like slaves, and he could hardly make her understand
that the Greeks deemed such works an honour to the highest ladies, and
indeed thought their goddess of wisdom presided over them.
While Darius fled away, Alexander came south to Palestine, and laid
siege to Tyre upon the little isle, to which he began to build a
causeway across the water. The Tyrians had an image of the Greek god
Apollo, which they had stolen from a temple in Greece, and they chained
this up to the statue of Moloch, their own god, to hinder Apollo from
going over to help the Greeks; but neither this precaution nor their
bravery could prevent them from being overcome, as the prophet
Zechariah had foretold, “The Lord will cast her out, and will smite her
power in the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire.”
“Gaza also shall see it, and shall be very sorrowful.” Alexander
took this brave Philistine city after a siege of two months, and
behaved more cruelly there than was his wont. It was the turn of
Jerusalem next; but the Lord had promised to “encamp about His House,
because of him that passeth by;” and in answer to the prayers and
sacrifices offered up by the Jews, God appeared to the High Priest,
Jaddua, in a dream, and bade him adorn the city, and go out to meet the
conqueror in his beautiful garments, with all his priests in their
ephods. They obeyed, and as Alexander came up the hill Sapha, in front
of the city, be beheld the long ranks of priests and Levites in their
white array, headed by the High Priest with his robes bordered with
bells and pomegranates, and the fair mitre on his head, inscribed with
the words “Holiness unto the Lord.” One moment, and Alexander was down
from his horse, adoring upon his knees. His friends were amazed, but he
told them he adored not the man, but Him who had given him the
priesthood, and that just before he had left home, the same figure had
stood by his bed, and told him that he should cross the sea, and win
all the chief lands of Asia. He then took Jaddua by the hand, and was
led by him into the Temple, where he attended a sacrifice, and was
shown Daniel's prophecies of him as the brazen thighs, the he-goat and
the leopard; he was much pleased, and promised all Jaddua asked, that
the Jews might follow their own laws, and pay no tribute on the Sabbath
years, when the land lay fallow.
Alexander next passed on to Egypt, where he built, at the mouth of
the Nile, the famous city that still is called by his name, Alexandria;
indeed he founded cities everywhere, and made more lasting changes than
ever did conqueror in the short space of twelve years. He then hunted
Darius into the mountain parts of the north of Persia, and after two
more victories, the Greeks found the poor Persian king dying on the
ground, from wounds given by his own subjects. So the soft silver of
Persia yielded to the brazen might of Greece. After this, Alexander
called himself King of Persia, and wore the tiara like an eastern king.
He took his men on to the borders of India, but they thought they were
getting beyond the end of the world, and grew so frightened that he had
to turn back. All that the Medes and Persians had possessed now
belonged to him, and he wanted to make Babylon his capital; he made his
court there, and received messengers who paid him honour from all
quarters; but he was hurt by so much success; he grew proud and
passionate; he feasted and drank too much, and did violent and hasty
things, but worst of all, he fancied himself a god, and insisted that
at home, in Greece, sacrifices should be offered to him. He tried to
restore Babylon to what it had been, and set multitudes to work to
clear away the rubbish, and build up the Temple of Bel; but when he
ordered the Jews to share in the work, they answered that it was
contrary to their Law to labour at an idol temple, and he listened to
them, releasing them from the command. He wished to turn the waters of
the Euphrates back into their stream, and drain the swamps into which
they had spread; but Babylon was under the curse of God, and was never
to recover. Alexander caught a fever while going about surveying the
unwholesome swamps, and after trying to hold out against it for nine
days, his strength gave way. He said there would be a mighty strife at
his funeral, perhaps recollecting how the prophecy had said that his
kingdom should not continue; and instead of trying to choose an heir,
he put his ring on the finger of his friend, and very soon died. He was
but thirty-two, and had not reigned quite twelve years; but perhaps no
one ever did greater things in so short a time. He died in the year
323; and so the great horn of the goat was broken when it was at the
strongest. No one hated him; for though sometimes violent, he had
generally been kind; he was frank, open, and free-handed, warm-hearted
to his friends, and seldom harsh to his enemies, and he had done his
best to educate and improve all the people whom he conquered. It was
owing to him that Greek manners and habits prevailed, and the Greek
tongue was spoken everywhere around the eastern end of the
Mediterranean, though Persia itself soon fell back into the old eastern
ways. Babylon became almost deserted after his death; the swamps grew
worse, till no one could live there, and at last, the only use of the
great walls was to serve as an enclosure for a hunting ground, where
the wild beasts had their home, and kept court for ever.
LESSON XVI. THE GREEK KINGS OF
“Why hast Thou then broken down her hedge, that all they that go by
pluck off her grapes?”—Ps. lxxx. 12.
The leopard of Daniel's vision had four heads—the great horn of the
rough goat gave place to four horns; so when Alexander was taken away
so suddenly from the midst of his conquests, leaving no one in his
room, his great officers divided them between themselves; and after
much violence and bloodshed, four Greek kingdoms were formed out of the
fragments of his conquests, Thrace, Macedon, Egypt, and Syria. It is
only the two last of which we have to speak. The angel who spake to
Daniel called their princes the Kings of the North and South. The
north, or second kingdom of Syria, was very large, and went from Asia
Minor to the borders of India, and it had two great capital cities,
Antioch in Syria, and Seleucia upon the Tigris, where the Babylonians
went to live when their city became deserted and uninhabitable. Both
these places were named after the Greek Kings of Syria, who were by
turns called Seleucus and Antiochus.
It would have seemed natural for Palestine to have belonged to
Syria, but the Greek King of Egypt, whose name was Ptolemy Lagos,
contrived to secure it. He entered Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day, when
the Jews thought it wrong to fight, and so he gained the city without a
blow; but this was no great misfortune to them, for the first Ptolemies
were milder masters than the Seleucidae, and did not oppress their
subjects. Ptolemy, however, brought a colony of Jews and Samaritans to
live in Lybia and Cyrene, parts of Egypt, and so fulfilled Isaiah's
prophecy, that five cities in Egypt should speak the language of
Canaan. They were treated with much favour, for he saw that they were
the most trustworthy of all his people. Indeed, the Greeks respected
them much; and one of Ptolemy's soldiers tells this story: he says that
while travelling in a large company by the Red Sea, he fell in with a
very brave strong Jew, called Masollam. Presently the whole company
came to a halt. Masollam asked why; and a soothsayer, pointing to a
bird, told him that if the bird stopped, it would be lucky for them to
stop; if it flew on, they might go on; if it went back, so must they.
All the answer Masollam made, was to fit an arrow to his bow-string,
and shoot the bird dead; and when the Greeks cried out at him, he
rebuked them for thinking the poor bird could know their future, when
he could not even save himself from the arrow.
At this time the High Priest was Simon the Just, son of Onias, the
same who is so highly praised in the fiftieth chapter of the Book of
Ecclesiasticus, and compared to the morning star, and to a young cedar
of Libanus, when he stood before the Altar in his beautiful robes, and
turned round and blessed the people. He was the last of the hundred and
twenty great prophets, or wise men, whom the Jews called the great
Synagogue; and it was he who sealed up the Old Testament, adding to the
former collection the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi; and it is
thought, compiling the books of Chronicles from older writings, for the
genealogy of the house of David there given, comes down to about the
year 300, when he was alive, since he died in 292. The Jews thought
nothing went so well with them after his time, and were alarmed when
the scape-goat, with the band of scarlet wool on his brow, instead of
rushing down a precipice, as usual, and being killed at once, ran off
into the desert, and was eaten by the Arabs. They enjoyed tolerable
peace for the whole of the time they were under the Greeks of Egypt.
Ptolemy Lagos wanted to make his new city of Alexandria as much famed
for learning as Athens; and for this purpose he founded a great library
there, collecting, from every quarter, books written either on
parchment, or on the paper rush of Egypt. When he died, in the year
284, his son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, or lover of his brethren, went on
still more eagerly seeking for curious writings; and among those for
which he wished were the Holy Scriptures. As they were in Hebrew, he
caused them to be translated into Greek; and the Jews believe that this
was done by seventy-two elders, who were shut up all day, two and two,
in thirty-six little cells in a palace on a little island in the Nile,
each pair taking one book of the Bible, and going back every evening to
sup with the king. This history does not seem likely to be true, but it
is quite certain that a version of the Old Testament from the Hebrew
into Greek was made about this time, and is called the Septuagint, from
this tradition about the seventy. It came more and more into use, as
Greek was considered the language of all learned men in the east. Most
of the quotations in the New Testament are taken from it, and it is of
great value in helping to show the exact meaning of the old Hebrew.
But if Ptolemy did desire to have the Scriptures in his own tongue,
it was only for curiosity, not for edification, for he was a great
idolater; and when his wife died he tried to build a temple to her at
Alexandria, which was to have a loadstone arch, with a steel statue of
her in the middle, where he hoped the equal attraction would keep it as
if flying in the air; but of course the fancy could not be carried out.
He had a quarrel with Antiochus Theos, King of Syria, but it was made
up by his giving his daughter Berenice in marriage to the Syrian, as
Daniel had foretold: “The king's daughter of the South, came to make an
agreement with the King of the North.” But Antiochus had another wife
before, whom he loved better; so when, in 246, Ptolemy Philadelphus
died, he put Berenice away, and took her back. She requited him by
poisoning him for fear her favour should not last, and her son,
Seleucus, became king, and taking Berenice prisoner, put her to death.
“But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate,
which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the
King of the North.” This was the brother of Berenice, Ptolemy
Euergetes, or the Benefactor, who came out of Egypt, overran Syria, and
killed the murderess, carrying home much spoil and many of the Egyptian
gods, which had been taken from the temples there in the time of
Cambyses. Ptolemy Euergetes himself came to Jerusalem, and attended a
sacrifice in the Temple; but Greek learning was doing the Jews no good,
and some began to reason like the heathen philosophers. A man named
Joseph taught that people ought to be holy for the love of goodness,
and not for the sake of a reward after death; and his follower, Zadok,
or Sadoc, went still farther, saying that there was no promise of any
reward. His disciples, who were called Sadducees, declared that the
soul was not separate from the body, but died with it; that there were
no angels, nor spirits, and that only the five books of Moses were the
real Word of God, thus casting aside all the prophecies. Such Jews as
abhorred this falling away, kept themselves apart, and were called
Pharisees, from a word meaning separate; and these grew the more strict
in the observance of all that had come down to them from their fathers,
adding to it much that had gradually been put into the explanations and
interpretations of the Law which were read on the Sabbath in the
Ptolemy the Benefactor was the last brave man of his family; his
son, Ptolemy Philopator, or lover of his father, was weak and violent,
and had a disastrous war with Antiochus the Great of Syria. In the
course of the conflict he came to Jerusalem, and tried to force his way
into the Holy of Holies, though the High Priest and all the priests and
Levites withstood him, and prayed aloud that the profanation might be
hindered. When he came to the court of the priests, such a strange
horror and terror fell on him, that he reeled and fell, and was carried
out half dead; but he was only hardened by this great wonder, and on
his return revenged himself by collecting the Jews at Alexandria, and
insisting that they should be marked with the ivy leaf, the sign of the
Greek god of wine, or else be made slaves, or put to death. Out of many
thousands, only three hundred submitted to this disgraceful badge; so
in his rage, he collected all the others in the theatre, and caused
elephants to be made drunken with wine and frankincense, so that when
driven in on them, they might trample them to death. But for two days
following the king was too drunk himself to be present at the horrible
spectacle, and the Jews had all that time for prayer; and when, on the
third day, the execution was to take place, the beasts ran upon the
spectators instead of upon the martyrs, so that though numbers of
Greeks were killed, not one Jew was hurt, and Ptolemy gave up his
attempt; though he did afterwards commit one savage massacre on his
Jewish subjects. He died when only thirty-seven years of age, worn out
by drunkenness; and the Jews, who had learnt to hate the Egyptian
dominion, gladly received the soldiers of his enemy, Antiochus the
Great, into Jerusalem, deserting his young son, who was only five years
old; and thus, in the year 197, Jerusalem came to belong to the
Seleucidae of Syria, instead of to the Ptolemies of Egypt. The history
of Ptolemy Philopator in predicted from the 10th to the 13th verse of
the 11th chapter of Daniel's prophecy. The Jews suffered terribly all
through these wars, which were usually fought out on their soil. Each
sovereign robbed them in turn, while they were too few to guard
themselves, and could do no otherwise than fall to the strongest.
LESSON XVII. THE SYRIAN PERSECUTION.
“The dead bodies of Thy servants have they given to be meat unto the
fowls of the air, and the flesh of Thy saints unto the beasts of the
land.”—Ps. lxxix. 2.
The history of Antiochus the Great is foretold in the 11th chapter
of the prophet Daniel, from the 14th to the 19th verse. On the death of
Ptolemy Philopator, this king entered Palestine with a great army, and
easily obtained from the time-serving Jews the surrender of Jerusalem.
Some of them who had forsaken their Law to gain the favour of Ptolemy,
were punished by Antiochus, because he knew that no trust could be
placed in men who cared for their own profit more than for their God.
He then laid siege to Gaza and to Sidon, and won great victories,
ravaging and consuming the adjoining lands with his armies; and
afterwards made peace with young Ptolemy Epiphanes, giving him his
daughter in marriage, hoping that she would betray her husband to him.
She, however, entirely forsook him, and made common cause with her
husband. “After this,” the prophecy declared that he would “turn his
face to the isles and take many.” This meant that he should make an
expedition to Greece, where he gained a good deal of land; but here he
came in contact with the iron power, shadowed out by the great and
terrible beast of Daniel's second vision.
Some four hundred years before this time, the city of Rome had begun
to grow up on some of the seven hills on the banks of the Tiber in
Italy. The inhabitants were a stern, earnest, brave, honest set of men;
not great thinkers like the Greeks, but great doers, and caring for
nothing so much as for their city and her honour. They thought their
own lives and happiness as nothing in comparison with Rome; and all the
free citizens had a share in the government, so that their city's
concerns were their own. Their religion seems in early times to have
been more solemn and grave than that of the Greeks. Jupiter was their
chief god, the King of gods and men, who held thunderbolts in his hand,
and they had eleven other principal gods; but by the time they had
learnt to write books, they had begun to think these were the same gods
as the Greeks worshipped under other names; they said Jupiter was the
same as Zeus, and told of him all the foolish stories which the worse
sort of Greeks had invented of Zeus, and as their religion grew worse,
they became more selfish, proud, and cruel. At first, their neighbours
in Italy were always fighting with them, and their wars were for life
or death; but after nearly three hundred years of hard struggling,
without one year's peace, the Romans had conquered them all, and had
safety at home. But they had grown too fond of war to rest quietly, so
they built ships and attacked countries farther off, beginning with the
great Phoenician city of Carthage in Africa, which it is said was
settled by Canaanites who fled away from Joshua, and whose first queen
was Dido, Jezebel's niece. A great Carthaginian general, named
Hannibal, who had been banished from home, came to Antiochus, and
offered to help him in his war upon Greece. This Hannibal did chiefly
out of hatred to the Romans, who were pretending to assist the Greeks,
only that they might become their masters. If Antiochus had taken the
advice of Hannibal, he might have succeeded better, but he was
self-willed; the Romans gave him a terrible defeat, and he was obliged
to promise to pay a great sum of money, and a heavy tribute afterwards;
to keep no elephants to be used in war, and to give up his younger son,
Antiochus, as security for his performance of the conditions. The
tribute he had to pay to Rome quite ruined him; and while he was trying
to rob an idol temple at Elymais, the people rose on him and slew him,
in the year 187.
His son, Seleucus, called by. Daniel “a raiser of taxes,” was very
poor in consequence of the tribute, and therefore greedy. He tried to
raise money by sending his servant, Heliodorus, to rob the temple at
Jerusalem Onias, the High Priest, and all the people, were in great
distress, and made most earnest entreaties to God to deliver them from
such profanation. Heliodorus came, however, to the temple, and was
pressing on to the treasury, when suddenly a horse, with a terrible
rider, appeared in armour like gold, and cast the spoiler to the
ground, while two young men, of marvellous beauty, scourged him on
either side, so that when the heavenly champions had vanished, he lay
as one dead. Onias prayed for him, and he was restored; the same beings
who had struck him down coming to reveal to him that his life was
granted at the intercession of the High Priest. When he returned to his
master, and was consulted as to who might be a fit man to send to
Jerusalem, he answered, “If thou hast any enemy or traitor, send him
thither, and thou shalt receive him well scourged.” So little
impression did such a revelation of glory make on that hard selfish
heart! The man who had been smitten by a visible angel could jest about
it, and soon went on to greater crime. He poisoned his master in the
hope of becoming king, as Seleucus's son was a hostage at Rome, that
is, he had been given as a pledge that the tribute should be paid; but
Seleucus's brother, Antiochus, who was on his way home from captivity
at Rome, flattered the adjoining kings into helping him, drove
Heliodorus away, and became king in 178. He was the little horn of the
Grecian goat, “the vile person to whom they should not give the honour
of the kingdom,” so much was it fallen since the time of his father,
Antiochus the Great. Vile indeed he was, nearly mad with violence and
excess, going drunk about the streets of Antioch crowned with roses,
and pelting with stones those who followed him, so that the Greeks
laughed at him for calling himself Antiochus Epiphanes, or the
Illustrious, and said he was really Antiochus the madman. He cared
little for the old Greek gods; but the Roman Jupiter, “a god whom his
fathers knew not,” was his chief object of devotion, and in his honour,
he instituted games like those of Greece. Some of the Jews had begun to
weary of their perfect Law, and fancy it narrow and vulgar, and the
brothers of the good Onias were among the worst; Joshua, the next in
age, changed his glorious prophetic name to the Greek Jason, and going
to Antioch, offered a great sum of money to be made High Priest, and
for leave to set up at Jerusalem a place for the practice of the
heathenish games of strength, where men fought naked. Antiochus was but
too glad of the offer; so the good High Priest was carried off to die a
prisoner at Antioch, and the apostate was set up in his room in order
to pervert the Jewish youth to idolatry. However, he was soon
overthrown by his apostate brother, Menelaus, whom he had sent to pay
the tribute at Antioch, and who, when there, promised the king a larger
revenue, and to bring all the Jews to embrace the heathen worship.
Jason fled to the Ammonites, and Menelaus and his brother sold the gold
vessels of the Temple to the Phoenicians. The Jews sent complaints to
the king at Tyre, but instead of attending, he murdered the messengers,
so much to the horror of the Tyrians, that they gave them honourable
Antiochus now began a war with Egypt, (Dan. xi. 25,) and while he
was there, Jason came back from the Ammonites and regained Jerusalem;
but the news brought the king back in the utmost rage, Jason fled to
Greece, and Antiochus, coming to Jerusalem, cruelly treated the people,
robbed the treasury, himself went into the holy place, led by that
horrible traitor, Menelaus; and uttering blasphemy, he sacrificed a hog
upon the altar, and boiling the flesh, sprinkled the Temple with the
broth, carried off the candlestick and all the rest of the gold, and
when he went away to continue his wars, he left a captain and garrison
to oppress the Jews, and an old man to teach them the worship of
Jupiter. A little altar for sacrifice to Jupiter was raised on the true
altar, the Temple was dedicated to Jupiter, as was also that of the
Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, the Sabbath was abolished, so was
circumcision, and on the day of the king's birth, in each month, the
Jews were forced to eat swine's flesh, and partake of idol sacrifices,
and, at the feast of the god of wine, to carry ivy in the mad drunken
processions in his honour.
It was the most utter misery that had yet befallen the Jews. Temple,
Priesthood, all gone! “We see not our tokens; there is not one prophet
more;” and yet that was the great time of glorious Jewish martyrdoms.
Numbers of the faithful were burnt to death together in a cave, where
they had met to keep the Sabbath day; two women who had circumcised
their babes, had them hung round their necks, and were then pitched
from the highest part of the wall of Jerusalem; and the aged scribe,
Eleazar, who was ninety years old, when swine's flesh was forced into
his mouth, spat it out again, and was scourged to death, saying with
his last breath that he bore all this suffering because he feared the
Lord. A mother and her seven sons were taken, and as each refused to
share in the idol rite and break the Law, they were put to death, one
by one, with horrible tortures, each before the eyes of his remaining
brethren; but the parting words of all were full of high hope and
constancy. “The Lord looketh on us, and hath comfort in us,” said one.
“The King of the world shall raise us up who have died for His laws
unto everlasting life,” was spoken by another. “Think not our nation is
forsaken of God, but abide awhile and behold His great power, how He
will torment thee and thy seed,” said another, (for they were as yet
only faithful Jews, hope and forgiveness for their persecutors was for
the Christian.) The mother stood firmly by while each son's limbs were
cut off, and he was roasted to death over a fire; and all her words
were to exhort them to be stedfast, and to assure them their Creator
could raise them if they died for Him. When the turn of the last son
came, the persecutors, pitying his youth, entreated him to change his
resolution, promising him riches and prosperity if he would adore the
idol, and even calling his mother to plead with him. Then the noble
woman laughed the tyrant to scorn. “Have pity on me, my son,” she
began; but it was not by saving his life, but by losing it, that she
bade him show pity on her, so that she might receive him again with his
brethren. He made a still fuller confession than the rest—he was slain
by a still more savage torture; and then his mother, blessing God, died
gloriously like her sons. Others fled, and lived in the mountains,
lurking in caves, and feeding on wild roots and herbs. Of such St. Paul
says, “They were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered
about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted,
tormented: of whom the world was not worthy.”
LESSON XVIII. THE MACCABEES.
“In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all
people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces.”—
Zechariah, xii. 3.
Never was there a time when God left Himself without a witness; and
in these darkest times of the Jewish history, He raised up a defender
of His Name. There was a small town, named Modin, near the sea shore,
whither a Greek officer called Apelles was sent to force the people
into idolatry. He set up an altar to one of his gods, and having
ordered all the inhabitants to assemble, insisted on their doing
sacrifice. Among them came a family of priests, who, from their
ancestor, Hasmon, were known as the Asmoneans. The father, Mattathias,
declared with a loud voice that he would permit no such dishonour to
his God, and the first Jew who approached to offer incense, was by him
struck down and slain. Then with his five brave sons, and others
emboldened by his example, he fell upon Apelles, drove him away, and
pulled down the idolatrous altar. He then fled away to the hills, where
so many people joined him, that he had a force sufficient to defend
themselves from their enemies; and he went round Judea, circumcising
the children, and rescuing the copies of the Law which the Greeks had
seized from the synagogues. Some of these holy books, which had been
defiled by paintings of the heathen idols, were destroyed, by order of
Mattathias, after the writing had been carefully copied. It was at this
time that the Jews began to read Lessons from the Prophets in the
synagogue, because Antiochus had only forbidden reading the Law,
without specifying the prophetic books. Mattathias, who was already an
old man, soon fell sick; and gathering his sons about him, reminded
them of the deeds that God had wrought by the holy men of old, and
exhorting them to do boldly in defence of His Covenant. He appointed as
their leader his third son, Judas, who for his warlike might was called
Maccabaeus, or the Hammerer; and the second, Simon, surnamed Thassi,
(one who increases,) was to be his chief adviser.
In the year 166, Judas Maccabaeus set up his standard, with the
motto, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods?” the first
letters of which words in Hebrew made his surname, Maccabee. He went
through the land, enforcing the Law, and putting the cities in a state
of defence. Antiochus, meantime, was holding a mad and hateful festival
at Daphne; but on hearing of the revolt of the Jews, he went into a
great rage, and sent a huge army to punish them. Maccabaeus defeated
this force, drove it back to Antioch, and then marched to Jerusalem,
and forced the Greek garrison to take refuge in a fortress called Akra,
on Mount Zion. The courts of the Temple were overgrown with shrubs
which stood like a forest, the priests' chambers had been pulled down,
and the Sanctuary lay desolate. These brave men rent their clothes and
wept at the sight; and then set at once to repair the holy place, their
priest-leader choosing out the most spotless among them for the work.
They pulled down the Altar that had been defiled, and setting aside its
stones, built a new one, and out of the spoil that was in their hands,
renewed the Candlestick, the shewbread table, and the Altar of incense;
and then they newly dedicated the Temple, after three years of
desolation. The anniversary was ever after kept with gladness, and was
called the winter feast of dedication. Still Judas was not strong
enough to take the castle on Mount Zion; but he built strong walls
round the Temple, so that it too became a fortress, and he then went to
Bethshan to defend the south border of Judea against the Edomites.
These tidings terribly enraged Antiochus, who was gone on an
expedition to Persia, and he designed to form a league with his
neighbours for the utter destruction of the Jews; but “he came to his
end, and none could help him,” for an overturn of his chariot so much
increased an inward disease that had already begun, that he fell into
most horrible tortures, and was in such a state of decay that scarcely
anyone could bear to come near him. Horrible fears tormented him, and
in his remorse he repented of all the evil he had done to the Jews, and
sent them a letter assuring them of his favour; but it was now too
late, and he died in great misery in 164. His son, Antiochus Eupator,
was only nine years old, and his affairs were managed by a governor
named Lysias, who continued the persecution, and led an army to the
relief of the garrison in Mount Zion. Judas marched out to meet him,
but was repulsed with the loss of six hundred men, and of his younger
brother, Eleazar, who seeing an elephant of huge size, with a tower of
unusual height on its back, thought the king himself must be there, and
running beneath it, stabbed it so as to be crushed himself in its fall.
Lysias then advanced upon Jerusalem, and laid close siege to it,
placing the Jews in extreme peril. Just then another regent rose up
against Lysias, and he made a hasty peace with Maccabaeus, and was
admitted into the city; but when he saw its strength, he broke his
promises, and overthrew the wall. On his return to Antioch, he punished
the apostate high-priest, Menelaus, as the author of all these
misfortunes, by smothering him in a tower filled with ashes. “Woe to
the idol shepherd who had left his flock!” Another half heathen, named
Alcimus, was appointed in his place, and when the Jews would not
receive him, brought down their enemies upon them again. Judas gained a
victory, and wrote to entreat the alliance and protection of the
Romans; but ere the answer to his letter arrived, he had, with only 800
men, fallen on a whole army of the Syrians, and was killed in the
battle, B.C. 161. His brothers, Jonathan and Simon, took up his body,
and buried it at Modin, in the tomb of their fathers; and they
continued to lead the faithful Jews, while Alcimus held Jerusalem, and
there began to alter the Temple, taking down the wall of separation
between the courts of the Jews and that of the Gentiles; but in the
midst of the work he was smitten with palsy, and died.
It was the plan of the Romans to take the part of a weak nation
against a strong one, because it afforded them an excuse for conquering
the mightier of the two, so they gave notice that the quarrels of the
Jews were their own; and after much fighting, Jonathan obtained two
years of peace, and became high-priest. Onias, the son of the good
Onias, whom Jason had set aside, went to Egypt, and ministered in a
temple built by the Jews, who had settled there.
Ever since the Syrian kings had begun to misuse the Jews, they had
grown weak and miserable. Antiochus Eupator was dethroned and murdered
by his cousin Demetrius; but shortly after, a man named Balas came
forward, calling himself the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, and begging
Jonathan to take his part, sending him a golden crown and purple robe,
and naming him commander of the Jewish force. In a battle in the year
153, Demetrius was slain; and Balas became king. Both Balas and his son
Antiochus treated Jonathan with great favour, and he fortified
Jerusalem, got possession of many other towns, and considerably
strengthened the rightful cause: but a wicked rebel named Trypho, who
designed the murder of his young master, Antiochus, began his
conspiracy by treacherously assassinating Jonathan in the land of
Gilead, B.C. 143, and soon after succeeded in killing the young king.
Simon Thassi was the only survivor of the brave Maccabaean brothers,
but he finished their work, and obtained from Rome, Egypt, and Syria,
an acknowledgment that the Jews were a free people, and that he was
their prince and priest. He took the castle on Mount Zion from the
Syrians, and so fortified the Temple, that it became like another
citadel, and he was honoured by all his neighbours. He built a noble
tomb for all his family at Modin, consisting of seven pyramids, in
honour of his father and mother, and their five sons; all covered in by
a portico, supported on seven pillars, the whole of white marble, and
the pediment so high that it served for a mark for sailors at sea. He
died, like his brave brethren, by a bloody death, being murdered at
Jericho, B.C. 135, by his own son-in-law, who hoped to usurp the
government; but his eldest son, John Hyrcanus, was able to punish the
murderer, and to obtain the full authority, by giving large presents
both to the Romans and Syrians. It is said that he found, laid up in
the sepulchre of David, 3000 talents of silver, which he used for this
purpose. Hyrcanus was a very powerful and mighty prince, and not only
reigned over all Judea, but conquered Edom, with all the curious
dwellings in the rocky caves of Petra; he brought the country under
subjection, circumcised the inhabitants, and brought them under the
Mosaic Law. From that time Idumea decayed, and now has become an utter
wilderness, the carved faces of the rocks still witnessing to the truth
of prophecy, as they stand forth, lonely and deserted in their
grandeur, though glowing freshly with the rosy marblings of the rocks
LESSON XIX. THE ROMAN POWER.
And He shall put a yoke of iron on thy neck until He have destroyed
Aristobulus, the son of Hyrcanus, was called King, as well as High
Priest of the Jews; but the mixture of worldly policy with the sacred
office did not suit well, and the Asmonean Kings were not like their
fathers, the Maccabees. Still their courage and steadiness made the
Jews much respected; and the Greeks and Romans around them began to
read their books, and there were some few who perceived that the
religion, there taught, was purer than idolatry, and wiser than the
beat philosophy. The kings were assisted in government by what was
called the Sanhedrim, a council of a hundred and twenty of the Scribes
and of the chief priests, namely, the heads of the courses of priests.
This council met daily in a hall near the great gate of the Temple, and
heard cases brought before them for judgment, after the example of the
seventy elders appointed by Moses. Alexander Janneus, the son of
Aristobulus, reigned from B.C. 104 to B.C. 77, and left his kingdom to
his wife, Alexandra, who trusted much to the Pharisees, and raised them
to great power. Her eldest son, Hyrcanus, was High Priest, and she left
the kingdom to him at her death, B.C. 69; but his brother, Aristobulus,
rebelling, with the help of the Sadducees, defeated him, and drove him
from his throne.
Hyrcanua was indolent, and was rather glad to be relieved from the
trouble of reigning; but his friend, Antipas, an Edomite by birth, and
of the Jewish religion, persuaded him that his life would not be safe
in Judea, and stirred him up to ask help, first from the Arabs, and
when they were beaten, from the Romans, to whom however, Aristobulus
had already sent a present of a golden vine, in hopes of winning their
The great awfulness of the Roman power was in the sureness of its
conquests. It did not fly onward without touching the earth, like the
great eastern conquerors; but let it set one claw on a nation, and the
doom of that nation was fixed. First the help of the Romans was asked
and readily given; then in return a tribute was demanded and paid; then
the Romans would meddle with the government, till their interference
became intolerable, and there was a rising against it, which they
called rebellion; then they sent an army, and ruined the nation for
ever. The king, queen, generals, and all the riches, were carried to
Rome, where the conqueror came in to enjoy what was called a triumph.
He was seated in a chariot drawn by white horses, a laurel wreath round
his head, and all his captives and spoils displayed behind him; the
senate or council coming out to meet him, and the people shouting for
joy as they led him to the Temple of Jupiter to give thanks. The
captives were afterwards slain; and, as a farther festival, the people
were entertained with shows of gladiators, namely, slaves trained to
fight, even to death, with each other or with wild beasts. Then the
conquered land became a Roman province. After the magistrates had
served a year at Rome, they were allowed to choose which province they
would govern; and there they did as they pleased, and laid heavy
burthens on the poor inhabitants, for all men, not of Roman birth, they
called barbarian, and used like slaves; nor was there any hope of
breaking this heavy bondage, for each city was a station of Roman
soldiers, who were the bravest and best disciplined in the world. The
army was divided into legions, each about 6,000 men strong, with a
silver eagle for the standard; these were again subdivided into
cohorts, and again into hundreds, each commanded by a centurion, whose
helmet had some mark by which his men might know him. No soldier could
miss his place, either in battle, on a march, or in the perfect square
camps which they set up wherever they halted; they obeyed the least
word, and feared nothing; and nothing could hold out against their
steady skill, perseverance, and progress. Wherever they went they built
fortresses, and made wonderful straight solid roads, some of which
remain to this day; and their ships and messengers going for ever from
one province to another, made their empire all like one country; where
the stern Roman was the lord, and the native was crushed down under his
They had just at this time put down the kingdom of Syria, and
conquered nearly all Asia Minor. Their great general, Pompey, was
holding a court at Damascus, whither, among ten other suppliant
princes, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus came to lay their cause before him,
thus asking a heathen who should be the Priest of the Most High. Pompey
took the part of the elder, as the rightful heir, and led an army
against Jerusalem. The siege lasted three months, and so strong was the
place, that it would have held out much longer, but that the Jews would
not defend themselves on the Sabbath, at least no more than enough to
protect their own lives. They would not disturb any of the operations
of the siege, nor keep the engines from the walls on that day; and
thus, B.C. 63, the Gentiles again entered Jerusalem on the very day
observed as a fast in memory of Nebuchadnezzar's conquest.
Pompey spared the city from plunder, and touched none of the
treasure in the Temple; but he would not be withheld from going into
every part, even into the Holy of Holies; and though no immediate
judgment followed, it was remarked that from that time his prosperity
left him. He set up Hyrcanus as High Priest, but not as King—made him
pay a tribute, put him under the control of Antipas, and forbade him to
extend his domains. Aristobulus and his sons were carried off to appear
in Pompey's triumph, but their lives were spared. Thus Judea, by her
own fault, fell under the dominion of the fourth power with the teeth
Rome had hitherto been ruled by two consuls, who were chosen every
year, and after their rule at home was over, went to make war in the
provinces; but of late this plan had been wearing our, and the great
general, Julius Caesar, who had conquered France, then called Gaul, and
had visited Britain, was making himself over-powerful. Pompey stood up
for the old laws, but Caesar was too strong for him, and at last hunted
him to Egypt, where he was murdered by the last of the Ptolemies.
Julius Caesar, who was one of the greatest warriors and most able men
who ever lived, managed Rome as he chose, and coming to Syria,
confirmed Hyrcanus in his rank, and finding him careless and indolent,
made Antipas procurator, or governor for the Romans; and thus Antipas
and his son, Herod, held all the real power in their hands, though
still under the Romans. Going back to Rome, Julius Caesar became so
powerful, that it was thought he would make himself king, and after
four years, some of the friends of the old laws killed him with their
daggers in the Senate House, B. C. 44. After this, there was great
confusion; and while Augustus Caesar, the nephew of Julius, gained
power in the west, Mark Antony, another Roman general, came to Egypt to
attend to the affairs of the East. He was a selfish licentious man, who
cared more for Cleopatra, the beautiful sister of the last Ptolemy, and
Queen of Egypt, than for Rome or for his duty; and he took bribes from
Herod to support his power over the old prince, Hyrcanus, to whose
daughter, Mariamne, Herod was betrothed.
The son of the deposed Aristobulus, Antigonus by name, made friends
with the Parthians, the descendants of the old Persians, and bursting
into Judaea when the nation was unprepared, carried off poor old
Hyrcanus as a prisoner, and cut off his ears that such a blemish might
prevent him from ministering again as High Priest. Herod escaping, went
to Rome, where he represented his case so ably, that Augustus and
Antony gave him men and money that he might drive out Antigonus, and
promised that he should himself be king under them. The Roman army
helped him to win back the country; and as the caves in the hills were
full of robbers, he let down soldiers in boxes over the face of the
precipices, and thus contrived to destroy them all. After a siege of
six months he took Jerusalem, and Antigonus surrendered to the Romans,
who kept him prisoner for some time, and then, at Herod's entreaty, put
him to death.
Herod thus became King of the Jews, B.C. 37. He married Mariamne,
who was very beautiful and amiable, and thus he hoped to please the
Jews who were attached to the old line; but as he was an Idumean, and
therefore could not be High Priest, he gave the holy office to her
brother, until becoming fearful of the young prince's just rights to
the crown, he caused his attendants to drown him while bathing, and
afterwards appointed High Priests, as he chose, from the chief priests
of the Sanhedrim. Indeed Herod lived in constant fear and hatred of
every Asmonean, and at last even turned against his own wife, Mariamne.
He caused her to be put to death, and then nearly broke his heart with
grief for her; and afterwards the same dread of the old royal stock led
him to kill the two sons she had left to him.
The seventy weeks of Daniel were drawing to a close, and everyone
expected that the long-promised Deliverer and King would appear. Some
flatterers said it was Herod himself, the blood-stained Edomite, and he
did all in his power to maintain the notion, by repairing the Temple
with great care and cost, making restorations there that were forty-six
years in progress, and spreading a golden vine over the front of the
There were others who said the one great King, whom even the heathen
expected, was coming to Rome. Augustus Caesar had gained all the power;
he had beaten Antony and Cleopatra in a sea-fight, and following them
to Egypt, found that they had both killed themselves, Antony with his
sword, Cleopatra by the bite of an asp, in order to save themselves
from being made prisoners. Augustus was welcomed at Rome with a great
triumph, and was called Emperor, the name always given to a victorious
general; the Romans gave him all their offices of state, and he ruled
over all their great dominions without anyone to dispute his power, any
enemy to conquer at home or abroad. There was a great lull and hush all
over the world, for the time was come at last. But the King was neither
Herod in Judea, nor Augustus at Rome! Nay Herod, as a son of Edom, was
but proving that the Sceptre had departed from Judah; and the reign of
Augustus was a time when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness
the people, for the Greeks and Romans had lost all the good that had
been left in them, and were given up to wicked cruelty and foul
self-indulgence; when one of their own heathen oracles was caused to
announce to Augustus that the greatest foe of the Roman power should be
a child born among the Hebrews.
LESSON XX. THE GOSPEL.
“It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”—Gen. iii. 15.
It was in the 4004th year of the world, the 30th of the empire of
Caesar Augustus, the 37th of the reign of Herod the Edomite, that
Augustus, wishing to know the number of his subjects, so as to regulate
the taxes paid by the conquered countries, to provide corn for the
poorer Roman citizens, sent out an edict that each person should enroll
his name at his native place, and there pay a piece of money. Thus the
Divine Power brought it to pass, that the Blessed Virgin, who was about
to bring forth a son, should travel with her betrothed husband to the
home of their fathers, Rachel's burial place, Bethlehem, the little
city, whence David had once been called away from the sheepfolds.
There the stable of the ox and ass received, the Master of Heaven
and earth, when His people considered Him not, and shut their doors
when, “Unto us a Child was born, unto us a Son was given.” There, the
shepherds on the hills heard the angels sing their song of peace on
earth, good will to men; there, on the eighth day of His Life on earth,
that Child was circumcised, and received the Greek form of the Divine
name, Jehovah the Saviour, the same which had been borne before by the
Captain and by the Priest, who had led His people to their inheritance.
Thence the Desire of all nations was carried to His presentation in the
Temple. He was truly the first-born of all creation, but He was only
known to the aged Simeon and devout Anna, as the messenger of the
covenant, the Lord for whom they had waited. To Bethlehem came the
mysterious wise men from the east. They had been led by the star to
Jerusalem, and were there directed on by the scribes, learned in the
prophecies; but their inquiries had alarmed Herod's jealousy, and he
sent forth the savage order, that the babes of Bethlehem should all be
murdered, in hopes of cutting off the new-born King of the Jews; but
while the mothers wept for the children who should come again to them
in a better inheritance, the Holy One was safe in Egypt, whither Joseph
had carried Him, by the warning of God.
This massacre was well nigh the last of Herod's cruelties. He was
already in failing health, and after having killed his innocent sons
because of their Asmonean blood, he was obliged to put to death the son
of another of his wives for rebelling against him. A terrible disease
came on, and fearing that the Jews would rejoice at his death, he
declared they should have something to mourn for; and sending for all
the chief men to Jericho, where he lay sick, he shut them all up in the
circus, or place for Roman games, and made his sister promise that the
moment he expired, soldiers should be sent in to kill them all. In this
devil-like frame, Herod died, in the seventieth year of his age, and
the thirty-fourth of his reign, the first year of our Lord;[A] and his
sister at once released the captives. He had had nine wives, and many
children, of whom he had himself put three to death. Archelaus and
Herod Antipas were the sons of one mother, Herod Philip of another, and
the murdered son of Mariamne had left two children, named Herod Agrippa
and Herodias. Archelaus took the kingdom, but had not power to control
either the people or the army. Three thousand Jews were massacred by
the soldiers in the Temple, and Archelaus went to Rome to beg to be
confirmed on his throne, and assisted in keeping his people in order;
but his brother, Herod Antipas, was there already, begging for a share
in the kingdom, and the Jews sent after Archelaus, saying, “We will not
have this man to reign over us!” Augustus thereupon refused to give to
either the title of King, but split Palestine into four divisions
called tetrarchies, from tetra, the Greek word for four, giving
to Archelaus Judea, Samaria, and Idumea; to Antipas, Galilee; to
Philip, Iturea, the part beyond the Jordan; and to a Greek named
Lysanias, Abilene, in the north, near Mount Hermon. After this, Joseph
returned from Egypt, but avoided the dominions of the cruel Archelaus,
by going to his former abode in Galilee.
[Footnote A: From the Birth of our Lord, time is counted onwards,
and the years marked as A.D., Anno Domini, Year of the Lord.]
Archelaus grew so wicked, that in the year 12 A.D. an accusation
against him was sent to Rome by the Jews and Samaritans; and Augustus
deposed him, sending him into banishment to Vienne, in Gaul. His
brothers did not obtain his domain, but it was joined to the province
of Syria, and put under the charge of a Roman procurator or governor,
who kept down disturbances by the strong hand; but this made the
Pharisees very discontented, as they fancied it was against the Divine
Law to pay tribute to strangers. Augustus had been all his life busy in
setting his empire in order, and making laws for it. It stretched from
the Atlantic Ocean nearly to the river Euphrates, and bordered the
Mediterranean Sea on both sides, the Alps shutting it in to the north,
and the deserts of Africa to the south. The Roman citizens considered
themselves the lords of all this space; and though at first only the
true-born Romans were citizens, Augustus gave the honour to many
persons of the subject nations. It freed them from being taxed, gave
them a right to vote for magistrates, and saved them from being under
the authority of the governors of the provinces. Every educated person
spoke Latin and Greek, but the latter tongue was most used in the east,
as the Romans themselves learnt it as an accomplishment. Augustus died,
A.D. 17, leaving his power to his step-son, Tiberius, whom he had
adopted as his own son, and thus given him the name of Caesar. Tiberius
had not been kindly treated in his youth, and he was gloomy and harsh,
and exceedingly disliked by the Romans. Under him, Pontius Pilate was
made Procurator of Judea, and took up his abode in Caesarea, a city
built by Herod and him son Philip, on the coast, and named after the
emperors. Pilate set up shields with idolatrous inscriptions in
Jerusalem; but the Jews petitioned Tiberius, who ordered them to be
removed, and there was much hatred between the Procurator and the Jews.
The thirty years of silent bearing of the common lot of man were now
nearly over; and six months ere the Messiah began to make Himself
known, His messenger, John, the Desert Priest, began to prepare His way
by preaching repentance in the spirit and power of the great Elijah,
and then baptizing in the Jordan unto repentance. Such washing was the
manner in which the Jews accepted their proselytes, as they called the
strangers who embraced the Law. The great purpose of the Old Covenant
was accomplished when John, having made his followers feel all the
weight of their sins against the Commandments, pointed out Him whom he
had already baptized, and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh
away the sin of the world!” A few faithful Galileans followed and
believed, and miracles began to testify that here was indeed the
Christ, the Prophet like to Moses, giving bread to the hungry, eyes to
the blind, feet to the lame. Decreasing as He increased, John offended
Herod Antipas by “boldly rebuking vice.” This Antipas had forsaken his
own wife, the daughter of an Arabian king, and had taken in her stead,
his niece Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip; and for bearing
witness against this crime, John was thrown into prison, and afterwards
beheaded, to gratify the wicked woman and her daughter, Salome. The
Arab King avenged his daughter's wrongs by a war, in which Antipas met
with a great defeat.
Meanwhile, the Pharisees and Sadducees, their heads full of the
prophecies of greatness and deliverance, to which their minds gave a
temporal, not a spiritual meaning, grew more and more enraged at every
token that the lowly Nazarene was indeed the Saviour, the Hope of the
whole world. Each token of perfection, each saying too pure for them,
each undoubted miracle, only made them more furious, and for once they
made common cause together. The Passover came. Herod Antipas came to
Jerusalem to observe the feast, Pilate to keep the peace among the
Jews; and Jerusalem saw her King coming, meek, and riding on an ass,
and amid the Hosannas of the children, weeping at the vengeance that He
foresaw for the favoured city where He had been despised and rejected,
and where He was Himself about to become the true Passover, which
should purchase everlasting Redemption.
The traitor sold Him to the Sanhedrim, or council, in which the last
words of the prophecy through the Priesthood had declared that one man
must die for the people; and a band of Roman soldiers was obtained from
Pilate. Meanwhile, our blessed Lord instituted the new Passover, the
Communion by which all the faithful should be enabled to partake of the
great Sacrifice; then He went out to the garden, among the grey olives
which still stand beside the brook Kedron, and there, after His night
of Agony, He was betrayed by a kiss, and dragged before the High
Priest, under an accusation of blasphemy; but as the Sanhedrim had not
power of life and death, and such a charge would have mattered little
to a Roman, a political offence was invented to bring before Pilate.
The procurator perceived the innocence of the Holy One, but feared to
befriend Him because of the raging multitude; and after vainly trying
to shift the responsibility on Herod Antipas, he washed his hands, to
show that it was no affair of his own, and gave the Victim up to the
murderers. They chose the most shameful death of Roman slaves, that
they might show their hatred and contempt, unwitting that each act and
each word had been foretold and foreshown in their own Law and
Prophets. For six hours He hung on His Cross, while the sun was dark,
and awe crept on the most ignorant hearts. Then came the cry, “It is
finished;” and the work was done; the sinless Sacrifice had died; the
price of Adam's sin was paid; the veil of the Temple was rent in twain,
to show that the way to the true Mercy-Seat was opened. The rich man
buried Him—the women watched; and when the Sabbath was over, the Tomb
was broken through, and the First-fruits of them that slept arose,
wondrously visited His followers for forty days, gave them His last
charges, and then ascended into Heaven, carrying manhood to the bosom
of the Father. Satan was for ever conquered.
LESSON XXI. THE FOUNDATION OF THE
“Ten men shall take hold, out of all language of all nations, even
shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go
with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”—Zech. viii.
By the coming of Him who had been so long promised, in His human
Body, and the completion of His sacrifice, all the objects of the old
ceremonial Law were fulfilled; the shadows passed away and substance
took their place, so that the comers thereunto might be made perfect.
Instead of being admitted to the covenant by circumcision, which was
only a type of putting away the uncleanness of the flesh, the believers
were washed from sin in the now fully revealed Name of the Holy
Trinity, in the Fountain of Christ's Blood, open for all sin and
uncleanness, and the penitent had a right to be constantly purified in
the living cleansing streams of grace and pardon. The one great
Passover had been offered, to redeem the chosen from the slavery of
Satan, and the highway was opened for the ransomed to pass over with
songs of joy, keeping the Resurrection Day instead of the Sabbath.
Means had been given of their constantly partaking of that Passover,
the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and thus tasting of
the Eternal Sacrifice, in right of which they prayed to the Father, to
whom they were united as members of His Son. The one great Day of
Atonement was over, and the true High Priest had entered for ever into
the Holy Place, opening a way where all might follow to the Mercy Seat,
there offering His own Sacrifice, and presenting their prayers. And
even in Heaven, He still was the Shepherd of the little flock, to whom
it was His good pleasure to give the Kingdom; feeding them, appointing
under shepherds, and guarding them gently from His Throne above. The
sealed Book of type and prophecy was open and clear at His touch; and
the Old Testament found full explanation and fulfilment in the New; and
now it, remained to make known the good tidings, and gather in all
nations, Jew and Gentile alike, to the Lord's Flock, the Church or
House of the Lord, as it was called.
One hundred and twenty believers in their risen Lord awaited
together the coming of the promised Comforter, who should abide with
them for ever, to guide them into all truth, and to enable them to
proclaim the accomplishment of all the promises. The eleven Apostles,
who, as their name implied, had been sent forth by their Lord, added
to their number Matthias, in the place of the traitor Judas, laying
hands on him in order to carry on the Gift that the Saviour had
breathed upon them. Besides these, there were the seventy whom our Lord
had sent out in pairs, and whose order was afterwards called the
elders, presbyters, or priests.
They were all gathered in the upper room to keep the Feast of Weeks,
in memory of the giving the Law, when He came upon them Who could
enable that Law to be kept, bringing the Divine Presence, which is the
pervading Life of the whole Body. His coming was marked by such open
signs, as to draw the attention of all the pilgrim Jews, who had come
from their distant homes to keep the feast. St. Peter expounded to them
that the time of fulfilment was come, and that Jesus, crucified and
risen, was their Salvation. 3,000 at once accepted the New Covenant,
and were baptized; and thus, on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33, the
Church of Christ sprang into full life. Many of the converts sold their
goods, and brought the price to the Apostles, all living on one common
stock, and giving bounteous alms; but the new converts of Greek
education, found their poor less well provided than the native Jews,
and to supply them, seven deacons, or ministers, were set apart as the
serving order of the ministry. Foremost of these was Stephen, who,
about two years after the Ascension, bore the first witness through
death to the doctrine which he taught,
[Footnote 1: Apostle—one sent] being stoned by the people in a
sudden fit of fury, at his showing how the whole course of their
history was but a preparation for Him whom they had crucified.
In the year 37, Pilate was recalled to Rome to answer the many
charges against him. He was sentenced to banishment in Gaul, and there
suffered so much from remorse, that he killed himself. At the time of
his deposition, the Caesar, Tiberius, was dying, hated by all, and
leaving his empire to his nephew, Caligula, who had been a youth of
great promise; but he lost his senses in a fever, and did all sorts of
strange wild things—made his horse a consul, tried to make him eat
gilded oats, and once, at a wild beast show, turned the lions in on the
spectators. Shortly before his illness, Herod Agrippa, the son of Herod
the Great's murdered son, Aristobulus, while driving in a chariot with
him, had said how glad everyone would be to see him reigning. The
charioteer reported the speech, and Tiberius punished it by keeping
Herod in prison, chained to a soldier; but to make up for his
sufferings, Caligula no sooner became emperor than he set him free,
gave him a crown, made him King of Trachonitis and Abilene, and
presented him with a gold chain of the same weight as the fetters which
he had worn in prison. This chain Herod hung up in the Temple, for he
was a zealous Jew, although such a friend of heathen princes, and he
seems to have been greatly puffed up with admiration of his own good
management. His sister Herodias, envious of his crown, persuaded her
husband, Herod Antipas, to go and sue for another at Rome; but all he
gained by his journey was an inquiry into his conduct, which ended in
his being exiled to Gaul, and his domain being given to Herod Agrippa.
In A.D. 41, the miserable madman Caligula, was killed, but Herod
Agrippa continued in high favour with the next emperor, the moody
Claudius, and under him the Jews had again the power of giving sentence
of death. They used it to persecute the disciples; and this led to many
leaving Jerusalem, and carrying the knowledge of the faith to more
distant parts. Saul, or Paul, a Benjamite, born at Tarsus, in Asia
Minor, a place where the inhabitants were reckoned as Roman citizens,
was learned in Greek philosophy, and deeply versed in the Jewish
doctrines: he was a zealous Pharisee, and a vehement persecutor, till
he was called by the Lord Himself from Heaven, and told that his
special mission should be to the Gentiles; and about the same time, it
was revealed to St. Peter in a vision, that the hedge of the ceremonial
Law was taken down, and no distinction should henceforth be made
between the nations, who had been all alike cleansed by the Blood of
Redemption. The Roman soldier, Cornelius, was the first-fruits of a
mighty harvest; and the Greeks and Romans in general, gave far more
ready audience to the Apostles, than did the Jews.
The hatred of the Jews moved Herod Agrippa to put to death James the
son of Zebedee, the first Apostle to drink of his Master's Cup; and he
would likewise have slain Peter, had not the Angel delivered that Saint
out of prison, in answer to the prayers of the Church. The pride of
Herod had come to a height. He celebrated games at Caesarea in honour
of the emperor, and in the midst came forth in a robe of cloth of
silver, to give audience to an embassy from Tyre and Zidon. At his
speech, the people shouted, “It is the voice of a god, not the voice of
a man!” But while Herod listened and took the glory to himself, he felt
a deadly stroke, which made him cry, “Your god is dying!” and in five
days he was dead. His son, Agrippa, was too young to take the
government, and a Roman procurator was appointed.
About this time the Apostles departed on their several missions. It
is said that ere doing so, they agreed on the Creed or watchword of the
Church; but it was not written down till more than three hundred years
later, lest the heathen should learn it and blaspheme it. Wherever they
went they ordained elders and deacons, and in most cities they left one
to whom they had conveyed their own apostolic powers. These were not
called Apostles, as that name was kept for those sent by our Lord in
person, but sometimes angels or messengers, and usually bishops, or
overlookers of the shepherds. St. James, the cousin of our Lord,
remained as Apostle of Jerusalem, while his brothers, Sts. Simon and
Jude, went into Mesopotamia, St. Andrew to Arabia, his brother, St.
Peter, to the dispersed Jews; St. John and St. Philip to Asia Minor,
Sts. Thomas and Bartholomew to India, Sts. Matthew and Matthias to
Ethiopia, but not till the former had written his Gospel, which several
of the Apostles carried with them, and which has been found in
possession of the most ancient Churches by them converted.
Little is known of their labours, as from this time the Acts of the
Apostles chiefly dwell on the history of St. Paul; but it seems certain
that everywhere they began by preaching to the dispersed Jews; and when
these rejected the offer of Salvation, they turned to the heathen, by
whom in general it was far more readily received. The Romans, heeding
this world's greatness more than any spiritual matter, were not
inclined to interfere with any one's religion, and only fancied the
Church a sect of the Jews. They usually gave the Apostles their
protection if the Jews raged against them; and their ships, their
roads, and the universality of their dominion, made the spread of the
Gospel much more easy, so that they were made to prepare the way of the
Lord, even while seeking only their own grandeur. It was about this
time that the Emperor Claudius came to Britain, and his generals won
all the southern part of the island, rooting out the cruel worship of
the Druids in their groves of oak, and circles of huge stones. He died
in the year 55, and was succeeded by his step-son, Nero, a half-mad
tyrant, who used to show off like a gladiator; racing in a chariot
before all the Romans at the games, collecting them all to listen to
his verses, and putting those to death who showed their weariness. He
was so jealous and afraid of plots on his life, that he killed almost
all his relations, even his mother, for fear they should conspire
against him; and all the richer and nobler Romans lived in terror under
him, though the common people liked him for being open-handed, and
amusing them with the cruel gladiator shows.
LESSON XXII. THE APOSTLE OF THE
“Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety
by him, and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall
dwell between His shoulders.”—Deut. xxxiii. 12.
After Saul's marvellous call from Heaven, he spent three years in
solitude in Arabia, ere entering on his work. Then returning to
Damascus, he began to set forth the Gospel. The Jews were so angry at
his change, that they stirred up the soldiers of the Arabian king,
Aretas, and he only escaped them by being let down over the wall in a
basket. Coming to Jerusalem, the gentle Levite, Barnabas, was the first
to welcome him, and present him to the company of the Apostles; but he
spent some years in retirement at his home at Tarsus, before Barnabas
summoned him to come and aid in his preaching at Antioch. There the
Word was heartily received, and the precious title of Christians was
first bestowed upon the disciples; there, too, on the occasion of a
famine in Judea, the first collection of alms for brethren at a
distance was made.
At Antioch, a heavenly revelation signified that Paul and Barnabas
were to be set apart for a special mission; and after prayer and
consecration they set out on their mission, accompanied by the nephew
of Barnabas, John, surnamed Mark. Barnabas had once had great
possessions in the isle of Cyprus, and thither they first repaired,
preaching in all the chief places; and then going into Asia Minor,
where they showed such power from on high, that the rude people of
Lycaonia fancied them gods in the likeness of men, and had well-nigh
done sacrifice to them, though afterwards the spiteful Jews led the
same men to draw Paul out of the city, stone him, and leave him for
dead. In such perils, Mark's heart failed him, and he departed from
Returning to Antioch, they found the Church in doubt whether the
Christians of Greek birth were bound to obey the rites of the Jewish
Law. To decide this, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, after
fourteen years' absence, taking with them a Greek, named Titus; and
here was held the First General Council of the Church, a meeting of her
Apostles and elders, in the full certainty that the Divine grace would
inspire a right judgment, according to the promise that Christ would be
with those who should meet in His Name. St. James presided, and St.
Peter spoke; and it was decided that the whole object of these rites
had been fulfilled, therefore that they were among the old things that
had passed away; and that no such rule need be imposed on the Gentiles,
save that given to Noah ere the parting of the nations. It was agreed
that St. Paul should go especially to the Gentiles, and St. Peter and
St. John to the scattered Jews, while St. James remained at Jerusalem.
Two Jewish Christians, Silas and Barsabas, went back with the two
Apostles, to notify the resolution to the Church at Antioch, and St.
Peter shortly followed them; but there continued to be a great tendency
among the Christians of Jewish blood to avoid their Gentile brethren,
and St. Peter was drawn in to do the same, so that St. Paul, always
more stedfast, was forced to rebuke him. Paul and Barnabas intended to
set out on a second journey, and Barnabas wished again to take his now
repentant nephew, but Paul would not trust him a second time; and after
a dispute on the subject, Barnabas left him, and took Mark to Cyprus,
where it is believed that the “Son of Consolation” was at length
Paul, taking Silas as his companion, went over the former ground in
Asia Minor, and at Iconium ordained a disciple, named Timothy, whose
father was a Greek, but whose Jewish mother and grandmother had
faithfully bred him up in the knowledge of the Scriptures. A Greek
physician, named Luke, likewise at this time joined him; and with these
faithful companions, he obeyed a call sent him in a dream, and crossed
over into Macedon, where he gained many souls at Philippi and
Thessalonica, but the Jews stirred up such persecution, that he was
forced to go southward into Greece. Athens was no longer a powerful
city, but it served as a sort of college for all the youths of the
Roman Empire who wished to be highly educated; and it was full of
philosophers, who spent their time in the porticos and groves, arguing
on questions of their own—such as whether, this life being all of
which they were sure, it was best to live well or to live in pleasure.
The Stoics were the philosophers who upheld the love of virtue and
honour; the Epicureans said that it was of no use to vex themselves in
this life, but that they might as well enjoy themselves while they had
time. St. Paul was well learned in all these questions, and set forth
to the Athenian students, in glorious words, that the truth was come
for which they had so long yearned, and declared to them the Unknown
God Whom they already worshipped in ignorance. Some few believed, but
the others were too fond of their own empty reasonings, and Athens long
continued the stronghold of heathenism. He had better success at
Corinth, where he spent eighteen months, working at his trade as a
tent-maker, and whence he wrote his two Epistles to his Thessalonian
converts, about the time that St. Luke was writing his Gospel, it is
thought by direct revelation, since neither he nor St. Paul had been
with our Lord. The Jews hunted them away at last; after a short stay at
Jerusalem, they went back to Asia Minor, and passed three years at
Ephesus, whence were written the Epistle to the Galatians, against the
Jewish practices, and the First to the Corinthians, on some disorders
in their Church. Ephesus was the chief city in Asia Minor, and
contained an image of the Greek goddess of the moon, Diana, placed in a
temple so beautiful, that it was esteemed one of the seven wonders of
the world, and thither came a great concourse of worshippers. There was
a silversmith who made great gain by selling small models of her
temple; and he, growing, afraid that his trade would be ruined if idols
were deserted, stirred up the mechanics to such a frenzy of rage, that
for two hours they shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” and they
would have torn Paul to pieces, had they not been with much difficulty
appeased. He was obliged to leave the city, and go to Macedonia, whence
he again wrote to the Corinthians, to console them in their repentance,
and he also wrote to the Church at Rome, which he had never yet seen.
After visiting the Greek Churches, a Divine summons called him back to
keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem, though well knowing that
bonds and imprisonment awaited him there; and on his way he had a most
touching meeting at Miletus, with the elders of Ephesus, who sorrowed
grievously that they should see his face no more. His beloved Timothy
was left with them as their bishop.
At Jerusalem, a terrible tumult arose against him for having, as the
Jews fancied, brought Greeks into the Temple, and he was only rescued
by the Roman garrison, who treated him well on finding that he was a
citizen. Then the Jews laid a plot to murder him, and to prevent this
he was sent to the seat of government at Caesarea, where he was brought
before the procurator, Felix, and his wife, Drusilla, a daughter of
Herod Agrippa. His words made Felix tremble, but the time-server put
them aside, and neither released him nor sent him to Rome for judgment,
but on going out of office left him in prison. Festus, the new
procurator, could not understand his case, and asked the young Agrippa
and his sister Bernice, to help him to find out under what accusation
to send him to Rome. Again St. Paul's speech struck his hearers with
awe, and Agrippa declared himself almost persuaded to be a Christian,
but he loved too well the favour of the Jews and Romans, and his petty
tetrarchy of Trachonitis, to become one of the despised sect. The noble
captive would have been set free, but that he had sent his appeal to
Rome, and therefore could only be tried there.
On his way, coasting along as sailors did before the compass was
known, came his shipwreck at Malta, when the life of his shipmates was
granted to him. The Emperor Nero was so much more disposed to amusement
than business, that St. Paul's cause was not heard, but he lived in his
own hired house, under charge of a soldier seeing the Christians
freely, and writing three beautiful epistles, full of hope and
encouragement, to his children at Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi, also
a friendly intercession for a runaway slave to Philemon, and letters of
pastoral counsel to Timothy at Ephesus, and to Titus, who was Bishop of
Crete. It is thought that the Epistle to the Hebrews, which shows how
the Old Covenant points throughout to the New, must be also of this
date; but we have no longer the inspired pen of St. Luke to tell of St.
Paul's history, and it is not certain whether he were ever at liberty
again, though some think that he was free for a short time, and went to
Spain, Gaul, and even to Britain. St. Peter had likewise come to Rome.
He had met with St. Mark, and taken him as his companion, and, as it is
believed, assisted in composing his Gospel. St. Peter likewise wrote
two epistles to the Jews dispersed abroad. But dark times were coming
on the Church. St. James, who left an epistle, was, in his old age,
slain by the Jews, who cast him from the top of the Temple, and then
beat out his brains. The Emperor Nero had also broken out in sudden
rage. In a fit of folly, he set Rome on fire to see how the flames
would look, and then persuaded the citizens that it was done by the
Christians. St. Peter, who is considered as the first Bishop of Rome,
and St. Paul, were thrown into a dungeon; and about that time Paul
wrote his last letter, to call to his side Timothy, and also the once
weak Mark, now profitable to the ministry, even as the ever faithful
Luke. The fight was over, the crown was ready, and on the same day, the
two Apostles went to receive it; the Roman citizen by the sword, the
Jewish fisherman by the cross, esteemed dishonour by the Romans, but
over-much glory by the saint, who begged to suffer with his head
downwards, so as not to presume on the very same death as that of his
Master. Many Christians likewise perished; thrown to wild beasts, or
smeared with grease, and then slowly burnt, to light the Romans at
their horrible sports; but to them death was gain, and the Church was
only strengthened. St. Timothy went back to his post at Ephesus, and
St. Mark founded a Church at Alexandria, where, many years later, he
was martyred by being dragged to death through the streets.
LESSON XXIII. THE FALL OF JERUSALEM.
“The Lord hath accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce
anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the
foundations thereof”—Lam. iv. 11.
In His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, oar Lord had wept for the
woes of the city which would not own Him, and had foretold that the
present generation should not pass away until His mournful words had
been fulfilled. One alone of His Apostles was left to tarry until this
coming for vengeance; the rest had all gone through the pains of
martyrdom to their thrones in Heaven. St. Andrew died in Greece, bound
on a cross shaped like the letter X, and preaching to the last. His
friend, St. Philip, had likewise received the glory of the Cross in
Asia; and the last of the Bethsaida band, St. Bartholomew, was tied to
a tree and flayed alive, in Armenia. St. Matthew and St. Matthias died
in Ethiopia or Abyssinia, leaving a Church which is still in existence;
and St. Thomas was slain by the Brahmins in India, where the Christians
of St. Thomas ever after kept up their faith among the heathen around.
St. Jude died in Mesopotamia, after writing an epistle to his flock;
and his brother, St. Simon Zelotes, also went by the same path to his
rest; but their deaths only strengthened the Church, and their
successors carried out the same work.
The judgments of God were darkening around Jerusalem. A procurator
named Florus was more cruel and insulting than usual, and a tumult
broke out against him. Agrippa tried to appease it, but the Jews pelted
him with stones, and drove him out of Jerusalem; they afterwards burnt
down his palace, and rose in rebellion all over Judea, imagining that
the prophesied time of deliverance was come, and that the warlike
Messiah of their imagination was at hand. Nero was much enraged at the
tidings, and sent an army, under a plain blunt general, named
Vespasian, to punish the revolt. This army subdued Galilee and Samaria,
and was already surrounding Jerusalem, when Vespasian heard that there
had been a great rebellion at home, and that Nero had been killed. He
therefore turned back from the siege, to wait and see what would
happen, having thus given the token promised by our Lord, of the time
when the desolation of Jerusalem should be at hand, when the faithful
were to flee. Accordingly, in this pause, all the Christians, marking
well the signs of coming wrath, took refuge in the hills while the way
was still open. Armies were seen fighting in the clouds; a voice was
heard in the Holy of Holies saying, “Let us depart hence!” the
heavily-barred gate of the Temple flew open of its own accord; and a
man wandered up and down the streets day and night, crying, “Woe to
Jerusalem! Woe! woe!” The Jews were hardened against all warning; they
had no lawful head, but there were three parties under different
chiefs, who equally hated the Romans and one another. They fought in
the streets, so that the city was full of blood; and fires consumed a
great quantity of the food laid up against the siege; yet still the
blind Jews came pressing into it in multitudes, to keep the now
unmeaning Feast of the Passover, even at the time when Vespasian's son,
Titus, was leading his forces to the siege.
It was the year 70, thirty-seven years since that true Passover,
when the Jews had slain the true Lamb, and had cried, “His Blood be on
us and our children!” What a Passover was that, when one raging
multitude pursued another into the Temple, and stained the courts with
the blood of numbers! Meanwhile, Titus came up to the valleys around
the crowned hill, and shut the city in on every side, digging a trench,
and guarding it closely, that no food might be carried in, and hunger
might waste away the strength of those within. Then began the utmost
fulfilment of the curses laid up in the Law for the miserable race. The
chiefs and their parties tore each other to pieces whenever they were
not fighting with the enemy; blood flowed everywhere, and robbers
rushed through the streets, snatching away every fragment of food from
the weak. The famine was so deadly, that the miserable creatures preyed
on the carcases of the dead; nay, “the tender and delicate woman” was
found who, in the straits of hunger, killed her own babe, roasted, and
fed upon him. So many corpses were thrown over the walls, that the
narrow valleys were choked, and Titus, in horror, cried out that the
Jews, not himself, must be accountable for this destruction.
For the sake of the Christian fugitives in the mountains, these
dreadful days were shortened, and were not in the winter; and in August
Titus's soldiers were enabled to make an entrance into the Temple. For
the sake of its glorious beauty, he bade that the building should be
spared; but it was under the sentence of our Lord, and his command was
in vain. A soldier threw a torch through a golden window, and the
flames spread fast while the fight raged; the space round the Altar was
heaped with corpses, and streams of blood flowed like rivers. Ere the
flames reached the Sanctuary, Titus went into it, and was so much
struck with its beauty, that he did his utmost to save it, but all in
vain; and the whole was burnt, with 6,000 poor creatures, whom a false
prophet had led to the Temple, promising that a wonder should there be
worked for their deliverance. The city still held out for twenty more
days of untold misery; but at last the Romans broke in amid flames
quenched in blood, and slaughter raged everywhere. Yet it was a still
sadder sight to find the upper rooms of the houses filled with corpses
of women and children, dead of hunger; and indeed, no less than a
million of persons had perished in the siege, while there were 97,000
miserable captives, 12,000 of whom died at once from hunger. As Titus
looked at the walls and towers, he cried out that God Himself must have
been against the Jews, since he himself could never have driven them
from such fortresses. He commanded the whole, especially the Temple, to
be leveled with the ground, no two stones left standing, and the
foundation to be sown with salt; and he carried off the Candlestick,
Shewbread Table, and other sacred ornaments, to be displayed in his
triumph. An arch was set up at Rome in honour of his victory, with the
likeness of these treasures sculptured on it. It is still standing, and
the figures there carved are the chief means we have of knowing what
these holy ornaments were really like. He gave the Jews, some to work
in the Egyptian mines, some to fight with wild beasts to amuse the
Romans, and many more to be sold as slaves. Other people thus dispersed
had become fused into other nations; but it was not so with the Jews.
“Slay them not, lest my people forget it, but scatter them abroad among
the heathen,” had been the prophecy of the Psalmist; and thus it has
remained even to the present day. The piteous words of Moses have been
literally fulfilled, and among the nations they have found no ease,
neither has the sole of their foot found any rest; but the trembling
heart, and failing eye, and sorrowful mind, have always been theirs.
They have ever been loathed and persecuted by the nations where their
lot has been cast, ever craving for their lost home, ever hoping for
the Messiah of their own fancy. Still they keep their Sabbath on the
seventh day; still they follow the rules of clean and unclean; and on
each Friday, such as still live at Jerusalem sit with their faces to
the wall, and lift up their voice in mournful wailing for their
desolation. Their goodly land lies waste, the sky above like brass, the
earth beneath like iron; her fruitfulness is over, and from end to end
she is a country of ruins, a sign to all nations! Some there are who
read in the prophecies hopes for the Jews, that they may yet return and
learn Who is the Saviour. Others doubt whether this means that they
will ever be restored as a nation; and still the Jews stand as a
witness that God keeps His word in wrath as well as in mercy—a warning
that the children of the free New Covenant must fear while they are
LESSON XXIV. THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.
“I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and
set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a
one, and will plant it on a high mountain and eminent.”—
In the year 70, the same in which Jerusalem was destroyed, happened
the first great eruption of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, in which was
killed Drusilla, the wife of Felix. Her brother, Agrippa, ruled by
favour of the Romans for many years in the little domain of Chalcis.
Titus was emperor after his father. He was a very kind-hearted man, and
used to say he had lost a day whenever he had spent one without doing a
good action; but he was soon poisoned by his wicked brother, Domitian,
who succeeded to his throne in 81. Domitian was a savage tyrant, cruel
to all, because he was afraid of all. He hated the Jews; and hearing
that some persons of royal blood still existed among them, he caused
search to be made for them, and two sons of St. Jude were brought
before him. They owned that they came of the line of David; but they
told him they were poor simple men, and showed him their hands hardened
with toil; and he thought they could do him so little harm, that he let
them go. He also laid hands on the aged St. John, and caused him to be
put into a caldron of boiling oil; but the martyr in will, though not
in deed, felt no hurt, and was thereupon banished to the little Greek
Isle of Patmos. Here was vouchsafed to him a wonderful vision,
answering to those of Daniel, his likeness among the prophets. He saw
the true heavenly courts, such as Moses had shadowed in the Tabernacle,
and which Ezekiel had described so minutely; he saw the same fourfold
Cherubim, and listened to the same threefold chant of praise, as Isaiah
had heard; he saw the seven lamps of fire, and the rainbow of mercy
round about the Throne; and in the midst, in the eternal glory of His
priestly robes, he beheld Him on Whose bosom be had lain, and Who had
called him beloved. From His lips he wrote messages of counsel and
warning to the angels, or Bishops, of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor;
and then came a succession of wonderful visions, each opening with the
Church in Heaven and in earth constantly glorifying Him that sitteth on
the Throne, and the Lamb, for ever and ever; but going on to show the
crimes in the world beneath, and the judgments one after another poured
out by the Angels; the true remnant of the Church persecuted; and the
world partly curbed by, partly corrupting, the visible Church; then the
destruction of the wicked world, under the type of Babylon; the last
judgment; the eternal punishment of the sinful; the final union of
Christ and His Church; and the eternal blessedness of the faithful in
the heavenly Jerusalem, with the Tree of Life restored.
When Domitian was killed, in 86, St. John went back to Ephesus, and
there wrote his Gospel, to fill up what had been left out by the other
three Evangelists, and especially dwelling on the discourses of the
Lord of Life and Love. That same sweet sound of love rings through his
three Epistles; and yet that heart-whole love of his Master made him
severe, for he started away from a house he had entered, and would not
go near it while it contained a former believer who had blasphemed
Christ. A young man whom he had once converted fell into evil courses
in his absence, and even became a tobber. St. John, like the Good
Shepherd, himself went out into the wilderness to find him, and was
taken by the thieves When his convert saw him, he would have fled in
shame and terror; but St. John held out his arms, called him back, and
rested not till he had won him to repentance. So gentle was he to all
living things, that he was seen nursing a partridge in his hands, and
when he became too old to preach to the people, he used to hold out his
hands in blessing, and say, “Little children, love one another.” He
died in the year 100, just before the first great storm which was to
try the Church.
The Emperor Trajan had found out that the iron of the Roman temper
had become mixed with miry clay, and that the men of his time were very
different from their fathers, and much less brave and public spirited.
He fancied this was the fault of new ways, and that Christianity was
one of these. There were Christians everywhere, in every town of every
province, nobles, soldiers, women, slaves, rich and poor; all feeling
themselves members of one body, all with the same faith, the same
prayers and Sacraments. All day they did their daily tasks, only
refusing to show any honour to idols, such as pouring out wine to the
gods before partaking of food, or paying adoration to the figures of
the Caesars, which were carried with the eagle standards of the army;
and so close was the brotherhood between them, that the heathen used to
say, “See how these Christians love one another!” At night they
endeavoured to meet in some secret chamber, or underground cave. At
Rome, the usual place was the Catacombs, great vaults, whence the soft
stone for building the city had been dug out, and where the quarry-men
alone knew the way through the long winding passages. Here, in the very
early morning of Lord's Day, the Christians made every effort to
assemble, for they were sure of meeting their Bishop, and of receiving
the Holy Communion to strengthen them for the trials of the week. The
Christian men and women stood on opposite sides; a little further off
were the learners, as yet unbaptized, who might only hear the prayers
and instructions; and beyond them was any person who had been forbidden
to receive the Holy Eucharist on account of some sin, and who was
waiting to be taken back again. The heathen knew nothing of what
happened in these meetings, and fancied that a great deal that was
shocking was done there; and Trajan ordered that Christians should be
put to the torture, if they would not confess what were their
ceremonies. Very few would betray anything, and what they said, the
heathen could not understand; but the emperor imagining that these
rites would destroy the old Roman spirit, forbade them, and persecuted
the Christians, because they obeyed God rather than man. The Bishop of
Antioch was an old man named Ignatius, who is believed to have been the
little child whom our blessed Lord had set in the midst of His
disciples as an example of lowliness. He had been St. John's pupil, and
always walked in his steps, and he is the first Father of the Church,
that is, the first of the great wise men in those early days, whose
writings have come down to us. As Trajan was going through Antioch, he
saw this holy man, and sentenced him to be carried to Rome, there to be
thrown to the lions for the amusement of the bloody-minded Romans. As
has been said, from early days the favourite sport of this nation had
been to sit round on galleries, built up within a round building called
an amphitheatre, to watch the gladiators fight with each other, or with
savage beasts. Many of these buildings are still to be found ruined in
different parts of the empire, and one in especial at Rome, named the
Coliseum, where it is most likely that the death of St. Ignatius took
place, when, as he said, he was the wheat of Christ, ground by the
teeth of the lions. He is reckoned as one of the Fathers of the Church.
His great friend was Polycarp, Bishop or Angel of Smyrna, the same, as
it is believed, to whom St. John had written in the Revelation, “Be
thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
The Emperor Antoninus began a persecution, which was carried on by
his successor, Marcus Aurelius; and in 167, St. Polycarp, who was a
very aged man, and had ruled the Church of Smyrna towards seventy
years, was led before the tribunal. The governor had pity on his grey
hairs, and entreated him to save his life by swearing by the fortunes
of Caesar, and denying Christ. “Eighty and six years have I served Him,
and He has never done me a wrong; how could I then blaspheme my King,
who hath saved me?” said Polycarp; and all the threats of the governor
did but make him glad to be so near glorifying God by his death. He was
taken out to be burnt alive, and as he stood bound to the stake, he
cried aloud, “Lord God Almighty, Father of the blessed and well-beloved
Son, Jesus Christ, by Whom we have received the grace to know Thee; God
of angels and of powers, God of all creatures, and of the just who live
in Thy Presence, I thank Thee that Thou hast brought me to this day and
hour, when I may take part in the number of the martyrs in the Cup of
Thy Christ, to rise to the eternal life of soul and body in the
incorruption of the Holy Spirit. May I be received into Thy Presence
with them as an acceptable offering, as Thou hast prepared and
foretold, Thou the true God Who canst not lie. Therefore I praise Thee,
I bless Thee, I glorify Thee by the eternal and heavenly High Priest,
Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, to Whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost,
be glory now and for ever and ever. Amen.” The fire was kindled, and to
the wonder of the beholders, it rose into a bright vault of flame, like
a glory around the martyr, without touching him; whereupon the governor
became impatient, and caused him to be slain with the sword. He was the
last of the companions of the Apostles; but there was no lessening of
the grace bestowed on the Church. Even when Aurelius's army was
suffering from a terrible drought in an expedition to Germany, a legion
who were nearly all Christians, prayed aloud for rain, a shower
descended in floods of refreshment. The emperor said that his god
Jupiter sent it, and caused his triumphal arch to be carved with
figures of soldiers, some praying, others catching rain in their
helmets and shields; but the band was ever afterwards called the
Thundering Legion. This unbelieving emperor persecuted frightfully, and
great numbers suffered at Vienne in Gaul, many dying of the damp of
their prison, and many more tortured to death. Of these was the Bishop
Pothinus of Lyons, ninety years old, who died of the torments; and
those who lived through them were thrown to wild beasts, till the
animals were so glutted as to turn from the prey; but no pain was so
great as not to be counted joy by the Christians; and the more they
were slain, the more persons were convinced that the hope must be
precious for which they endured so much; and the more the Word of God
prevailed. Aurelius Caesar died in 180, and the Church was left at rest
for a little while,
LESSON XXV. THE PERSECUTIONS.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”—Matt v. 10
It had been revealed to St. John that the Church should have
tribulation for ten days; and accordingly, in her first three hundred
years, ten emperors tried to put out her light. Nero, Domitian, Trajan,
Antoninus, and Aurelius, have been mentioned; and the next persecutor
was Severus, an emperor who went to Britain, firmly established the
Roman power over England, and built the great wall to keep the Scots
from injuring the northern settlers.
In his time died the glorious band of martyrs of Carthage—five
young converts, two men, named Satur and Saturninus, a noble young
married lady, called Perpetua, who had a young infant, and two slaves,
Revocatus and Felicitas, the last of whom gave birth to a daughter in
the prison. But not even love to their babes could lead these faithful
women to dissemble their belief; Perpetua left her child with her
family; Felicitas gave hers to a Christian woman to bring up; and the
lady and the slave went out singing, hand in hand, to the amphitheatre,
where they were to be torn by beasts. A wild cow was let loose on them,
and threw down the two women; but Perpetua at once sat up again,
covered herself with her garments, and helped up Felicitas, but as if
in a dream, for she did not remember that the cow had been loosed on
her. Satur had an especial horror of a bear, which was intended to be
the means of his death, and a good soldier named Pudens put meat in
front of the den, that the beast might not come out. A leopard then
flew at him, and tore him; Satur asked the soldier for his ring, dipped
it in his own blood, and gave it back as a memorial, just before he
died under the teeth and claws of the animal. The others were all
killed by soldiers in the middle of the amphitheatre, Perpetua guiding
the sword to her own throat.
The persecution of the Emperor Decius was one of the worst of all,
for the heathen grew more ingenious by practice in inventing horrible
Under the Emperor Valerian died St. Lawrence, a young deacon at
Rome, whom the judge commanded to produce the treasures of the Church.
He called together all the aged widows and poor cripples who were
maintained by the alms of the faithful, “These,” he said, “are the
treasures of the Church.” In the rage of the persecutors, he was
roasted to death on bars of iron over a fire. St. Cyprian, the great
Bishop of Carthage, was beheaded; and one hundred and fifty martyrs at
Utica were thrown alive into a pit of quick-lime. At Antioch one man
failed; Sapricius, a priest, was being led out to die, when a Christian
named Nicephorus, with whom he had a quarrel, came to beg his
forgiveness ere his death. Sapricius would not pardon, and Nicephorus
went on humbly entreating, amid the mockery of the guards, until the
spot of execution was reached, and the prisoner was bidden to kneel
down to have his bead cut off. Then it appeared that he who had not the
heart to forgive, had not the heart to die; Sapricius's courage failed
him, and he promised to sacrifice to the idols; and Nicephorus was put
to death, receiving the crown of martyrdom in his stead. The
persecuting Valerian himself came to a miserable end, for he was made
prisoner in a battle, in 258, with the Persians, and their king for
many years forced the unhappy captive to bow down on his hands and
knees so as to be a step by which to climb on his elephant, and when he
died, his skin was taken off, dyed red, and hung up in a temple. After
his captivity, the Church enjoyed greater tranquillity; many more
persons ventured to avow themselves Christians, and their worship was
carried on without so much concealment as formerly.
But the troublous times were not yet over, and the rage of the
prince of this world moved the Romans to make a yet more violent effort
than any before to put down the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. Two
emperors began to reign together, named Diocletian and Maximian,
dividing the whole empire between them into two parts, the East and the
West. After a few years' rule, they both of them fell savagely upon the
Christians. In Switzerland, a whole division of the army, called the
Theban Legion, 6,000 in number, with the leader, St. Maurice, all were
cut to pieces together rather than deny their faith. In Egypt the
Christians were mangled with potsherds, and every torture was invented
that could shake their constancy. Each tribunal was provided with a
little altar to some idol, and if the Christians would but scatter a
few grains of incense upon it, they were free; but this was a denying
of their Lord, and the few who yielded in the fear of them who could
kill the body, grieved all their lives afterwards for the act, and were
not restored to their place in the Church until after long years of
penance, or until they had atoned for their fall by witnessing a good
confession. Sometimes they were not allowed to receive the Holy
Communion again till they were on their dying beds. But these were the
exceptions; in general, God's strength was made perfect in weakness,
and not only grown men, but timid women, tender maidens, and little
children, would bear the utmost torture with glad faith, and trust that
it was working for them an exceeding 'weight of glory. St. Margaret of
Antioch was but fifteen years old, St. Agnes of Rome only twelve, and
at Merida, in Spain, Eulalia, at the same age, went out in search of
martyrdom, insulting the idols, until she was seized and put to death
full of joy; but in general, the Christians were advised not needlessly
to run into the way of danger.
This was the first persecution that reached to Britain, There a
kind-hearted Roman soldier, named Alban, received into his house a
priest who was fleeing from his persecutors, and while he was there,
learnt from him the true faith. When search was made for his guest,
Alban threw on the dress of the priest, and was taken in his stead; he
was carried to the tribunal, and there declaring himself a Christian,
was sentenced to be beheaded. The city where he suffered is called
after him St. Alban's, and a beautiful church was afterwards built in
memory of him. These cruelties did not long continue in Britain, for
the governor, Constantius, had married a Christian British lady, named
Helena; and as soon as he ventured to interfere, he stopped the
Diocletian became tired of reigning, and persuaded his comrade,
Maximian, to resign their thrones to Constantius and to another prince
named Galerius. Constantius forbade all persecution in the West, but
Galerius and his son-in-law, Maximin, were very violent in the East;
and Maximin is counted as the last of the ten persecuting emperors.
Under him a great many Christians were blinded, scarred with hot iron,
or had their fingers and ears cut off. Some were sent to the deserts to
keep the emperor's cattle; some were driven in chains to work in the
mines. These, who suffered bravely everything except death, were called
confessors instead of martyrs. Galerius died in great misery in 311, of
the same horrible disease as the persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus
Epiphanes; and like him, he at last owned too late the God whom he had
rejected, and sent entreaties that prayers might be offered up for him.
LESSON XXVI. THE CONVERSION OF
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
of his Christ.”—Rev. xi, 15.
The son of Constantius, Constantine, became emperor in 307. He was
in doubt between the two religions; he saw that Christianity made
people good, and yet he could not quite leave off believing in the
heathen gods, and was afraid of neglecting them. As he was passing the
Alps to put down a very powerful and cruel tyrant, who had made himself
master of Italy, he and all his army suddenly beheld in the sky, at
mid-day, a bright light shaped like a cross, and in glorious letters
round it, the Latin words meaning, “In this sign thou shalt conquer.”
This wonderful sight made Constantine believe that the cross was truly
the sign of salvation, and that He who could show such marvels in
heaven, must be the true God. He set the cross on his standards instead
of the Roman Eagle; and such great victories were vouchsafed to him,
that by-and-by he became the only emperor, and put down all his
He was not as yet baptized, but he was a hearty believer, and he
tried in everything to make the Church prosperous, and to govern by
Christian rules. From that time all the chief powers of this world have
professed to be Christian, and the Church has been owned as the great
means appointed by God of leading His people to Himself. Constantine's
mother, Helena, though in her eightieth year, set off to the ruins of
Jerusalem to try to trace out the places hallowed by our Saviour's
suffering. All was waste and desolate, and no one lived there save a
few very poor Jews and Christians in wretched huts. The latter had
never lost the memory of the places where the holy events of the
Passion had taken place; and the empress set men to dig among the ruins
on Mount Calvary, till she found the Holy Sepulchre, and not far from
it, three crosses, and the nails belonging to them. She built a most
beautiful church, so large as to cover the whole of Golgotha. The
sepulchre itself formed a round vault within, crusted over with marble,
and lighted with silver lamps. The true Cross was kept in the church,
but the nails she brought home as the most precious gift she could
carry to her son. She also beautified and made into a church the cave
of the Nativity at Bethlehem, and she built another church on Mount
Carmel in memory of Elijah. From her time it became a habit with devout
persons to go on pilgrimage, to worship at the holy tomb and in the
Cave of Bethlehem; and a new city of Jerusalem rose upon the ruins of
the old one, though, of course, without a Temple. Rome was so fall of
the tokens of heathenism, that Constantine feared that his court would
never be heartily Christian till he took it to a fresh place; so he
resolved to build a new capital city for his empire. This was the city
called after him, Constantinople, the city of Constantine, on the banks
of the Bosphorus, just where Europe and Asia nearly meet. The chief
building there was a most beautiful church, dedicated to the holy
Wisdom of God, and named in Greek St. Sophia. The Bishop there was
termed the Patriarch of Constantinople. There were already five
patriarchs, or great Father Bishops, to rule over divisions of the
Church at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The Patriarch of
Rome was called the Pope. All was peace and prosperity, and the
Christians were so much at their ease, that some finding that they
missed the life of hardness, which they used to think a great blessing,
went apart from men, and lived in caves, quite alone, working hard for
very scanty food, and praying constantly. These were called hermits.
But there soon were troubles enough rising up within the Church
herself, for a man named Arius, a priest at Alexandria, began wickedly
to teach that our blessed Lord was not from all eternity, nor equal
with God the Father. So many persons were led away by this blasphemous
heresy, (which means a denial of the faith,) that it was resolved to
call together as many Bishops as possible from the entire Church, to
hold a General Council, and declare the truth.
The emperor came to Nicea, in Asia Minor, in the year 325, and there
met three hundred and eighteen bishops from every quarter, many of them
still scarred by the injuries they had received in the persecutions,
and many learned priests and deacons, among whom the most noted was
Athanasius of Alexandria. Together, they drew up the two first
paragraphs of the confession of faith called the Nicene Creed, and
three hundred of the bishops set their sign and seal to it, declaring
it was the truth, as they had been charged to hold and teach it fast,
the Catholic or universal faith. Arius was put out of the Communion of
the Church, and all his followers with him. But they were many and
powerful; and in after times, Constantine became confused by their
representations. He ought to have seen that he who was not even
baptized ought not to interfere in Church matters; but instead of this,
he wrote to Athanasius, who had just been made Patriarch of Alexandria,
telling him to preserve peace by receiving Arius back to Communion.
Athanasius refused to do what would have tainted the whole Church, so
Constantine banished him, and allowed Arius to come to Constantinople.
There the heretic deceived him so completely, that he desired that he
should be received back on the next Sunday. While the faithful clergy
wept and prayed that the Church might be kept clear from the man who
denied honour to the Lord who bought him, Arius went through the
streets in triumph; but in the midst he was smitten by a sudden
disease, and died in a few moments. This judgment convinced
Constantine, and he held to the Catholic faith for the rest of his
life. He was baptized, and received his first Communion on his
death-bed, when sixty-four years old, and is remembered as the first
After him came worse times, for his son, Constantius, was an Arian,
and persecuted the Catholics, though not to the death. St. Athanasius
was driven to hide among the hermits in Egypt, and a great part of the
Eastern Church fell into the heresy. Then, in 361, reigned his cousin,
Julian the Apostate, who, from being a Christian, had turned back to be
a heathen, and wanted to have the old gods worshipped. In hopes to show
that the prophecies were untrue, he tried to build up the Temple at
Jerusalem, and the foundations were being dug out, when balls of fire
came bursting out of the ground; and thus God's will and power were
made known, so that the workmen were forced to leave off. Julian was
very severe towards the Catholics, and it seemed as though the old
times of persecution were coming back; but after three years he was
killed in battle, and the next emperor brought back better days. St.
Athanasius finished this life in peace, and left behind him writings,
whence was taken the glorious Creed that bears his name.
LESSON XXVI. THEODOSIUS.
“The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto
thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the
soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee the City of the Lord, the
Zion of the Holy One of Israel”—Isa. lx. 14.
The empire was again divided into two parts, which were held by two
brothers. Valentinian, who had the eastern half, was an Arian; and
Valens, who ruled at Rome, was a Catholic. Though all the empire was
Christian, still there were sad disputes; for many had fallen away into
the heresy, and there was so great a love of arguing in a light
careless manner in market-places, baths, feasts, and places of common
resort, that it was a great distress to the truly devout to hear the
most sacred mysteries discoursed of so freely.
The great and learned Saint Jerome hid himself away from this strife
of tongues, to pray and study in a hermitage at Bethlehem. By the
desire of the Pope, he did the same work for the New Testament as Simon
the Great had done for the Old Testament: he examined into the history
of all the writings that professed to have come down from the Apostles'
time, and proved clearly which had been really written under the
inspiration of God, and had been always held as Holy Scriptures by the
Church. Then he translated the whole Bible into Latin, and wrote an
account of each book, setting apart those old writings of the Jews that
are called the Apocrypha, and are read as wise instruction, though they
be not certainly known to be the Word of God, in the same manner as the
Holy Scriptures themselves. St. Jerome is counted as one of the chief
Fathers or doctors of the Church.
Another great Father of the Church who lived at the same time, was
Ambrose. He was the Governor of the Italian city of Milan; and though a
devout believer, was still unbaptized, when the clergy and the people,
as was then the custom, met to choose their Bishop. A little child in
the crowd cried out, “Ambrose Bishop!” and everyone took up the cry
with one voice, and thought that the choice was inspired by the Holy
Spirit. Ambrose was very unwilling to accept the office, but at last he
submitted; he was baptized, and a week after was first confirmed, and
then ordained priest, and consecrated Bishop. He was one of the most
kind and gentle of men, but he had a hard struggle to fight for the
truth. The Emperor, Valens, died, and his widow, Justina, who ruled for
her little son, was an Arian. She wanted a church for her friends, but
Ambrose would allow none to be profaned by a service where the blessed
Saviour would be robbed of His honour. He knew his duty as a subject
too well to lift a hand against the empress, but he filled up the
Church with his faithful flock, and there they prayed, and sang psalms
and hymns without ceasing; and when Justina sent soldiers to turn them
out, they were so firm, that only one woman ran away. Instead of
offering violence, the soldiers joined and prayed with them, and thus
Justina was obliged to give up her attempt in despair.
A very good emperor named Theodosius had begun to reign in the east,
and assisted Justina's young son to govern the west. He was a thorough
Catholic, and loved the Church with all his heart. Some fresh heretics
had risen up, who taught falsehoods respecting the Third Person of the
most Holy Trinity; and to put them down, Theodosius called another
General Council to meet at Constantinople, and there the following
addition was made to the Nicene Creed: “I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with
the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified—” and so
on to the end. Thus each heresy was made the occasion of giving the
faithful a beautiful watchword.
Though good and religious, Theodosius was hasty and violent by
nature, and could be very severe. He had laid a tax on the people of
Antioch, which made them so angry that they rose up in a rage, knocked
down the statues of the emperor and his wife which adorned their public
places, and dragged them about the streets; but as soon as they came to
their senses, they were dreadfully alarmed, knowing that this was an
act of high treason. They, therefore, sent off messengers to entreat
the emperor's pardon; and in the meantime they met constantly in the
churches, fasting and praying that his wrath might be turned away.
John, called Chrysostom, or Golden Mouth, from his beautiful language,
was a Deacon of Antioch, and he preached to the people every day during
this time of suspense, telling them of the sins that had moved God to
give them up to their foolish passion, so as to put them in fear, and
lead them to repentance. One of these sins was vanity, and love of
finery and pleasure; and another was their irreverent behaviour at
church. They did repent heartily; and before the emperor's men had time
to do more than begin to try some of the ringleaders, there came other
messengers at full speed, bringing his promise of pardon.
Love of the sight of chariot races was a great snare to the Greeks.
At Thessalonica, one of the favourite drivers behaved ill, and was
imprisoned by the governor, upon which the people flew out in a fury,
and actually stoned the magistrate to death. In his passion at their
crime, Theodosius sent off soldiers with orders to put them all to
death; and when he grew cool, and despatched orders to stop the
execution of his terrible command, they came too late—the city was in
flames, and the unhappy people, innocent and guilty alike, all lay
slain in the streets. Theodosius was at Milan; and St. Ambrose thought
it right to shut him out from the congregation while he was so deeply
stained with blood. The emperor came to the church door and begged to
be admitted; but the Bishop met him sternly, and turned him back.
Theodosius pleaded that David had sinned, and had been forgiven. “If
you have been like him in sin, be like him in repentance!” said the
Bishop; and this great prince turned humbly away, and went weeping
home. Easter was the regular time for reconciling penitents; and at
Christmas the emperor stayed praying and weeping in his palace till a
courtier advised him to try whether the Bishop would relent. He came to
the church, but Ambrose told him that he could not transgress the laws
in his behalf. At last, however, when he saw the emperor so truly
contrite and broken-hearted, he gave him leave to come in again; and
there the first thing Theodosius did was to fall down on his face,
weeping bitterly, and crying out in David's words, “My soul cleaveth to
the dust, quicken Thou me according to Thy word!” He lay thus humbly
through all the service; nor did he once wear his crown and purple
robes till after several months of patient penitence he was admitted to
the blessed Feast of Pardon. He made a decree that no sentence of death
should be executed till thirty days after it was spoken, so that no
more deeds of hasty passion might be done.
One great happiness of St. Ambrose's life was the conversion of
Augustine. This youth was the son of a good and holy mother, St.
Monica; but he had not been baptized, and he grew up wise in his own
conceit, and loving idle follies and vicious pleasures. For many years
he was led astray by heretical and heathenish fancies; but his faithful
mother prayed for him all the time, and at last had the joy of seeing
him repent with all his heart. He was baptized at Milan; and it is said
that the glorious hymn Te Deum was written by St. Ambrose, and
first sung at his baptism. The hymn, “Veni Creator,” which is
sung in the Ordination Service, is also said to be by St. Ambrose.
Monica and her son spent a short and peaceful space together; and then
she died in great thankfulness that he had been given to her prayers.
He spent many years as Bishop of Hippo, in Africa, and wrote numerous
books, which have come down to our day. One is called the City of God,
so as exactly to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah, that the Church should
so be called by the descendants of those who had afflicted her. St.
Martin, a soldier, who once gave half his cloak to a beggar, and
afterwards became a Bishop, completed the conversion of Gaul at this
time, and was buried at Tours. St. Chrysostom likewise left many
sermons and comments on the Holy Scripture. He was made Patriarch of
Constantinople, but he suffered many things there, for the wife of the
Emperor Arcadius, son of the good Theodosius, hated him for rebuking
her love of finery, and her passion for racing shows, and persuaded her
husband to send him into exile in his old age, to a climate so cold,
that he died in consequence. The beautiful collect called by his name
comes from the Liturgy which was used in his time in his Church at
Constantinople; but it is not certain whether he actually was the
LESSON XXVIII. THE TEUTON NATIONS.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a leaven, which a woman took and
hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened.”—Matt. xiii. 33.
The miry clay which Nebuchadnezzar saw mixed with the iron of Rome,
had by the end of the fourth century nearly overcome the strong metal,
and the time had come when the great horn of the devouring beast was to
be broken off, and give place to ten others. The Romans for the last
two hundred years had been growing more and more selfish and easy in
their habits; and instead of fighting their own battles, had called in
strangers to fight for them, till these strangers became too strong for
them. The nations to whom these hired soldiers belonged, were the
forefathers of most of the present people of Europe. They were called
Teutons altogether, and lived in the northern parts of Europe. They
were tall, fair, large people, very brave and spirited, with much
honour and truth, though apt to be savage and violent; and they showed
more respect to their women than any of the heathens did. They had many
gods, of whom Odin, who left his name to the fourth day of the week,
was the chief and father. Freya, the Earth, was his wife, and Thor was
Thunder. There was a story of Baldur, a good and perfect one, who died
by the craft of Lok the Destroyer, and yet still lived. This seemed
like a copy of the truth; and so did the story of Lok himself, the
power of evil, with a serpent on his brow, who lay chained, and yet
could walk forth over the earth, and whose pale daughter, Hela, was the
gaoler of the unworthy dead. They thought the brave who died in battle
had the happiest lot their rude fancies could devise; they lived in the
Hall of Odin, hunting all day, feasting all night, and drinking mead
from the skulls of their conquered enemies.
The tribe called Goths, who lived near the Romans, and who took
their pay and entered their armies, learnt the Christian faith readily;
but unfortunately, it was through Arians that they received it, and
those farther off continued to worship Odin. The great Theodosius left
his empire parted between his two sons, Arcadius in the east, Honorius
in the west. Both were young, weak, and foolish. They quarrelled with
the great Gothic chief, Alaric, who began to overrun their dominions,
and at last threatened Rome so much, that Honorius was forced to call
home all his soldiers to protect himself.
The first province thus left bare of troops, was Britain, which
remained a prey to the savage Scots, and then was conquered by the
Saxons and Angles, two of the heathen tribes of Teutons, who seemed for
a time quite to have put out the light of Christianity in their part of
the island. The Britons in the Welsh hills, however, still continued a
free and Christian people; and Patrick, a noble young Roman, who had
once been made captive by the wild Irish, and set to feed their sheep,
no sooner grew up than he went back to preach the Gospel to them, and
deliver them from a worse bondage than they had made him suffer. So
many did he convert, and such zealous Christians were they, that
Ireland used to be called the Isle of Saints; and it has never
forgotten the trefoil, or shamrock leaf, by which St. Patrick taught
his converts to enter into the great mystery, how Three could yet be
In the meantime Alaric marched against Rome. Once he was beaten
back, and Honorius celebrated the victory by the last Roman triumph
ever held, and after it, by the last of the shows of righting slaves. A
monk sprung into the amphitheatre while it was going on, and, in the
name of Christ, forbade the death of a gladiator who had been wounded,
and was to have been killed. The people, in a rage, stoned the good
man; but they were so much ashamed, that these shocking entertainments
were given up for ever. Rome never won another victory. Alaric came on
again; and though he honoured the noble city so much, that he could not
bear to let loose his wild troops on it, the false dealing of Honorius
at last made him so angry, that he led his Goths into the city; but he
was very merciful, he ordered that no one should be killed, and no
church injured nor plundered; and he led his army out again at the end
of six days. Honorius had fled to Ravenna, and though a few more weak
and foolish men called themselves Emperors of the West, the very title
soon passed away, and the chief part of Italy was held by the Goths and
other Teuton tribes; but they seldom came to Rome, where the chief
power gradually fell into the hands of the Pope.
Gaul was conquered by another Teuton race called Franks, who were
very fierce heathen at first, but were afterwards converted. Their
great leader, Clovis, married a Teuton lady named Clotilda, a Catholic
Christian. She was very anxious to lead him to the truth; and at last,
in a great battle, he called out in prayer to Clotilda's God; and when
the victory was given to him, he took it as a sign from Heaven, and on
coming home was baptized, and built the Church of Notre Dame at Paris,
which is said to be just as long as the distance to which King Clovis
could pitch an axe.
Spain was conquered by a set of Arian Goths; but a Frank princess,
great grandchild to Clotilda, brought her husband, the young prince, to
a better way of thinking; and though they were persecuted, even to the
death, their influence told upon the rest of the family; and the
younger brother, who came to the throne afterwards, brought all Spain
to be Catholic.
It was something like this with England, where Bertha, another Frank
princess, worked upon her husband, Ethelbert, King of Kent, to listen
to Augustin, whom Pope Gregory the Great had sent to preach the Word to
the Saxons, recollecting how he had once been struck by the angel faces
of the little Angle children, whom he had found waiting to be sold for
slaves in the marketplace. From Kent, the sound of the Gospel spread
out throughout England; and before one hundred years had passed, all
the Saxons and Angles were hearty Christians, and sent out the
missionary, St. Boniface, who first converted the Teutons in Germany.
So, though it would have seemed that the great rush of heathen savages
must have stifled the Christian faith, it came working up through them,
till at last it moulded their whole state and guided their laws; but
this was long in coming to pass, and for many centuries they were very
savage and fierce.
St. Gregory the Great was one of the very best of the Popes, very
self-denying, and earnestly pious, and doing his utmost to train the
Romans in self-discipline, and to soften the Teutons. He put together a
book of seven services, to be used by devout people in the course of
each day; and he arranged the chants which are still called by his
name, though both they and the services are much older. A little before
his time, St. Benedict had made rules for the persons who wished to
serve God, and to live apart from the world. They lived in buildings
named monasteries, or convents; the men, who were called monks, under
the rule of an abbot, the women, nuns, under an abbess. They took a vow
of poverty, chastity, and obedience; lived and worked as hard as
possible, and spent much time in prayer and doing good, teaching the
young, giving medicine to the sick, and feeding the poor. They would
fix their home in a waste land, and bring it into good order, and they
went out preaching and convening the heathen near. Everyone honoured
them; and in the worst times, they were left unhurt; their lands were
not robbed, and in those savage days, little that was gentle or good
would have been safe but for the honour paid to the Church.
LESSON XXIX. MAHOMET.
“God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a
lie.”—2 Thess. ii. 11.
The Eastern Empire was not broken up like the Western. The emperors
reigned at Constantinople in great state and splendour, in palaces
lined with porphyry and hung with purple, and filled with gold and
silver. The Greeks of the east had faults the very contrary to those of
the Teutons of the west. Instead of being ignorant, rude, and savage,
they were learned, courtly, and keen-witted; but their sharpness was a
snare to them, for what they were afraid to do by force, they did by
fraud, and their word was not to be trusted. In matters of faith too,
they were too fond of talking philosophy, and explaining away the
hidden mysteries of God; so there sprang up sad heresies among them,
chiefly respecting the two Natures of our blessed Lord; and though
there were councils of the Church held, and the truth was plainly set
forth, yet great numbers were led away from Catholic truth.
Long ago, the Lord of the Church had warned the Churches of Asia by
His last Apostle, that if they should fall from their first faith, He
would remove their candlestick—that is, take away the light of His
Gospel. The first warning they had was, when the Persians broke out in
great force, came to the Holy Land, robbed the churches at Jerusalem,
and carried away the true Cross, which had been put in a gold case, and
buried under ground in hopes of preserving it. They afterwards went on
to the very banks of the Bosphorus, and seemed likely to take
Constantinople itself; but the emperor, Heraclius, who had hitherto
been very dull and sleepy, suddenly woke up to a sense of the danger,
and proved himself an able warrior, hunting the Persians back into
their own country, and rescuing the Cross, which he carried up the hill
of Calvary again upon his own shoulders.
But a worse foe was growing up among the wild sons of Ishmael in
Arabia. Nobody can tell what kind of religion these wandering tribes
had in the old times, except that they honoured their father, Abraham,
still circumcised their sons, and believed in one God, though they paid
some sort of worship to a black stone, which was kept at Mecca. Some
bad learnt a little Christianity, some had picked up some notions from
the Jews; but they cared for hardly anything, except their camels,
horses, and tents, and had small thought beyond this life. Among these
men there arose, about the year 600, a person named Mahomet. He had at
first been servant to a rich widow, whom he afterwards married. Either
he fancied, or persuaded others that he believed, that the angel
Gabriel spoke to him in a trance, and told him that he was chosen as a
great prophet, to announce the will of God, and restore the faith to
what it had been in Abraham's days. He caused all that he pretended to
have been told by the angel, to be set down in writings, which were
called the Koran, meaning the Book, the first sentence of which was,
“There is no God but one God, and Mahomet is His prophet.” Mahomet
blasphemously pretended to be as much greater a prophet than our Lord,
as our Lord was than Moses. He ordered prayers and fastings and
washings at set times, forbade the least drop of wine to be touched,
and commanded that not only no image should be adored, but that no
likeness of any created thing should exist, promising that all who
strictly obeyed all these rules, should be led safely over a bridge,
consisting of a single hair, and enter into a delicious garden, full of
fruits, flowers, and fountains, there to be waited on by beautiful
women. He gave men leave to have four wives, and did nothing to teach
them real love, purity, or devotion; and thus his religion suited the
bad side of their nature, and he persuaded great numbers to join him.
Indeed no unbeliever is so hard to convert as a Mahometan.
Some of the Arabs being offended at the new teaching, wanted to put
him to death; and he fled from his home at Mecca. On his way he was so
closely pursued as to be forced to hide in a cave. His enemies were
just going to search the cave, when they saw a spider's web over the
mouth, and fancied this was a sign that no one could have lately
entered it, so they passed by and left him safely concealed. In his
anger at this persecution, be declared that the duty of a true
Mahometan was to spread his religion with the sword; and calling his
friends round him, they fought so bravely that he won back Mecca, and
conquered the whole of Arabia. They did not persecute Christians, but
they kept them down and despised them; and any Mahometan who changed
his religion, was always put to death. Mahomet called himself Khalif,
and ruled for ten years at Mecca, where he died and was buried.
Mahometans go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and always turn their faces
thither when they pray at sunrise or sunset, throwing water over
themselves, or sand if they cannot get water.
The Khalifs who came after Mahomet, went on conquering. The chief
tribe of the Arabs was called Saracens; and this was the name given to
the whole race whom God had sent to punish the Christian world. The
Holy City itself, and all the sacred spots, were permitted to fall into
their hands; and though they did not profane the churches, the Khalif
Omar built a great mosque, or Mahometan place of worship, where the
Temple had once been, so as quite to overshadow the Church of the Holy
They conquered Persia, and spread their religion through that
country, putting down the fire worshippers; they seized almost all Asia
Minor, where the heretical Christians too easily became Mahometans, and
they obtained possession of Egypt, and the great library at Alexandria,
where they burnt all the collection of books, because they said, “If
they taught the same as the Koran, they were useless, if otherwise,
they were mischievous.” Then from Egypt they spread all along the north
coast of Africa, where the Roman dominion had once been, and were only
grieved that the waves of the Atlantic Ocean kept them from going
further to the west.
In Spain the Gothic king, Rodrigo, mortally offended one of his
nobles, who, in revenge, called in the Saracens to punish him; and the
whole kingdom fell a prey to these Mahometan conquerors, except one
little mountainous strip in the north, where the brave Christians drew
together, and fought gallantly for their Church and their freedom
through many centuries. It almost seemed as if these terrible Saracens,
who bore everything down before them, were intended to conquer all
Europe, and crush down the Church there as they had done in the east;
but God was with His people, and He raised up a great warrior among the
Christian Franks. Charles Martel, or Charles of the Hammer, so called,
because he always went into battle with a heavy iron hammer, led the
Franks against the Saracens, when they came up into the South of
France; and in the year 732 gave them at Tours the first real defeat
they had yet met with. It turned them back completely, and they never
came north of the Pyrenees again; but all over the west of Asia and
north of Africa, the first places where Christianity had spread, the
heavy dark cloud of Mahometanism settled down, and has never been
LESSON XXX. THE FIRST SCHISM.
“While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.”
—St. Matt. xiii. 25
Is the West there was no heresy as there was in the East. The simple
Teutons believed what they were taught, and grew softened by little and
little, as their clergy gained more influence over them. The clergy
were usually bred up in the convents, and there read the good old books
which had come down from learned times, St. Jerome's Latin Bible, and
the writings of the holy Fathers of the Church, from St. Clement, the
friend of St. Paul, down to St. Gregory the Great. Each monastery had a
few of such books, as well as of the Liturgy, or Communion Service, and
Breviary, or Daily Service; and they were worth much more than their
weight in gold. The monks used to copy them out, and adorn the borders
and first letters of the chapters with beautiful colours and gilding;
but such writing took a long time, and when it was done, few but the
clergy could read. Except the clergy, only such persons as were partly
Roman by birth had any notion of Latin, or cared to read at all; and so
changed were things now that the new race were the conquerors, that to
be a Roman was thought quite contemptible, and in France there was a
less heavy punishment for killing a Roman than for killing a Frank. The
fierce Teuton nobles thought nothing but war worth their attention, and
yet they were very devout, and would weep bitterly over their sins.
They gave richly to churches, founded convents, and paid great honour
to clergymen, and to everything belonging to religion.
Sometimes this honour began to run into idolatry. They treated
relics, that is, remains, or things that had belonged to holy persons,
as having some sacredness of their own, and fancied that they would
save him who carried them from harm. And when they glorified God for
His saints in Heaven, and thought of the Communion of saints, they
began to entreat their prayers, and the more ignorant would even pray
to the saints themselves, as if they could by their own power grant the
things that were asked. The blessed Virgin was more sought in this
manner than any other saint. The pictures and images of saints, and the
crucifix or figure of our blessed Lord on His Cross, which stood in all
the churches, often had lights burning before them, and people kneeling
round in prayer, till there was danger that, in their ignorance, they
might be bowing down to the likeness, and breaking the Second
One of the Greek emperors named Leo, was much displeased at this
practice, and tried to put a stop to it. There was a great uproar at
Constantinople, and many profane things were done and said, which
shocked the western branch of the Church. At last the Greeks made a
rule that there might be pictures of sacred subjects in their churches,
but no images, and to this they have kept ever since. The Latins would
not agree to this, and kept both images and pictures; and thus began a
feeling of distrust between the two branches.
The great Frank king, Charles le Magne, grandson of Charles Martel,
was a very religious man, and did a great deal to convert the heathens
in Germany, and spread the power of the Church. He saved Rome from some
dangerous enemies, and made the Pope a sort of prince over the city;
and the Pope, in return, crowned him Emperor of Rome, though without
any right to give away that title. He died in 814, and after his time
all the Christian west suffered horribly from the Teuton heathens, who
lived in Norway and Denmark, and who used to come down in their ships
and ruin and ravage all the countries round, especially England and
France. They loved nothing so well as burning a convent; and such a
number of learned monks and their books perished under their hands,
that the world was growing more ignorant than ever, when our good King
Alfred rose up in 880, taught himself first, and then his people; and
though he died early, left such good seed behind him, that at last his
Saxons converted their enemies themselves, and Norway and Denmark
became Christian too, through kings who had learnt the faith in
England. But all the errors grew the faster from the ignorance of the
people; and at Rome, where there was plenty of learning, the power the
Pope enjoyed had done little good, for it made ambitious men covet the
appointment, and they ruled their branch of the Church so as to ensure
their own gain, more than for the sake of what was right. The
Patriarchs of Constantinople greatly disapproved of this, and made the
most of all the differences of opinion and practice. When the Council
of Constantinople had added to the Nicene Creed the sentence which
asserts the Godhead of the Third Holy Person of the Ever Blessed
Trinity, the third clause had been “Who proceedeth from the Father.” Of
late the Western Church had added the words “and the Son.” Now though
the Greeks believed with all their hearts that the blessed Spirit doth
come forth from the Father and the Son, yet they said that the Latins
ought not to put words into the Creed that no Council had yet
authorized; and thus a great dispute arose. Besides, the Popes had
begun to think themselves universal Bishops, heads over all other
Patriarchs; and to this the Patriarch of Constantinople would not
submit, and rightly said that from the old times all Patriarchs had
been equal, and had no right to take authority over one another. At
last matters ran so high, that the Pope sent three legates or
messengers, who laid on the altar of St. Sophia an act breaking the
communion between the two Churches, and then shook off the dust from
their feet. This was in the year 1056, a very sad one, for here was the
first great rent in the Church, the first breach, and one that has
never been repaired, for the Greeks will not, to this day, hold
communion with anyone belonging to the Western Church, nor will the
Roman Church with them; and after the first happy thousand years when
the Church was one outwardly as well as inwardly, thus began the time
when her unity has become a matter of faith, and not of sight. But it
is our duty to believe that all good Christians are joined together,
because they are joined to our blessed Lord, as the boughs of a tree
belong to one another by their union with the root, though they may
grow apart on different branches.
There were many other differences. The Greeks and Latins reckoned
the time of keeping Easter in different ways, and had not the same way
of shaving the heads of their clergy. Besides, the Greeks thought that
when St. Paul said an elder might be the husband of one wife, he meant
that a parish priest must be married; so if a clergyman's wife
died, they put him into a convent, and took away his parish. The Roman
Catholics said, on the contrary, that the clergy were better unmarried;
and by-and-by they forbade even those who were not monks to have wives;
and in process of time a far more serious evil gradually arose in the
Western Church. The clergy said that there was no need for the people
to partake of the Cup at the Holy Eucharist, so they were cut off from
that privilege, though our Lord had said, “Drink ye ALL.” The clergy
said it was all the same whether the people drank of it or not, since
Flesh and Blood were one; but this was thinking for themselves, and
over explaining, and so by-and-by they lost the real spiritual devout
way in which they ought to have reverently spoken of that great and
holy mystery, and thought of it in a manner that answered better to
their mere human understanding.
LESSON XXXI. THE MIDDLE AGES.
“Surely the isles shall wait for Me.”—Isaiah, ix. 9.
It is not easy to make out exactly the ten kingdoms to which the
Roman dominion was said in Daniel to give place, because sometimes one
flourished, sometimes another; sometimes one was swallowed up,
sometimes a fresh one sprang forth; but there can be no doubt that the
ten horns mean the powers of Europe, which have always been somewhere
about that number ever since the conquest by the Teuton nations.
By the time the first thousand years had past, the “little leaven"
had thoroughly “leavened the whole lump;” and the ways of thinking, the
habits, laws, and fashions, of the western people, were all moulded by
Christian notions. The notions were not always really Christian, nor
did the people always act up to them; but they meant so to do; and
though there was some error, yet there was also the sincere saving
Truth, which made those who followed it holy, and led them to
salvation. Perhaps the greatest mistake was the craving to see, instead
of only to believe; and this led to peoples' putting their trust in
many things besides the Merits of our blessed Lord—in relics, in
images of saints, in the intercessions of the blessed Virgin, and above
all, in the Pope's promises.
The Popes were Patriarchs of Rome, and had thus some right over the
Churches founded from thence. They used to send the Primate, or chief
Archbishop, of each country, a pall or scarf, woven of the wool of
lambs which they had blessed on St. Agnes's Day. Many questions were
sent to them to be decided. At first the right way of choosing a bishop
was, that the clergy and people of the place should elect him, and the
king give his consent; but when the Pope's power increased, ambitious
men used to bribe the people to elect them; and affairs grew so bad,
that at last the Emperor Otho, of Germany, came to Rome, put down the
wicked Popes, and took the choice quite into his own hands. This was
wrong the other way; and after two or three reigns, the great Pope,
Gregory VII., after a fierce struggle with the emperor, Henry IV., set
matters in order again, and obtained that, as the Roman people were not
to be trusted with the choice, it should be put into the hands of the
clergy of the parish churches at Rome, who were called Cardinals, and
have ever since had the election of the Pope in their hands. They wear
purple and crimson robes and hats, in memory of the old Roman purple of
It had been thought by almost the whole of the Western Church, ever
since they had lost their communion with the eastern branch, which
might have kept them right, that the Pope stood visibly in our Lord's
place as Head of the Church, and that he was infallible, namely, so
inspired by the Holy Spirit, that he could no more fall into error than
a General Council could. So he stood at the head of all the Archbishops
and Bishops, Abbots and clergy, of the west; and whenever a difficulty
arose, it was sent to him to be settled. He ruled likewise over the
consciences of all men and women. If they sinned, the being cut off
from the Church, excommunicated, as it was called, was the most
terrible punishment that could befall them; and if a king or country
were very wicked indeed, the Pope could lay them under an interdict,
namely, deprive them of every office of religion, shut up the church
doors, and forbid all service.
Sometimes these threats were of great benefit. It was good for the
kings to be forced to think of what was right, to be stopped from
making cruel wars, from misusing their people, or living in sinful
pleasure; but the Popes did not always use their power rightly; they
would become angry, and excommunicate people for opposing them, and not
for doing what was wrong, and they did not bethink them of our Lord's
saying, that His Kingdom is not of this world. Still the Church was
working great good. Holy people were bred up, some in convents, some in
the world: St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who taught her people to
say grace at their meals; St. Richard, the good humble Bishop of
Chichester; and that glorious French monk, St. Bernard, whose holy life
and beautiful preaching made him everywhere honoured.
Great alms were given to the poor, and almost all our most beautiful
churches and cathedrals were built by devout kings, nobles, or bishops,
who gave their wealth for God's glory. These were built so as to be
almost as symbolical as the Temple had been. They were usually in the
shape of a cross, in honour of the token of our Salvation; the body was
called the nave, or ship, because of the Ark of Christ's Church; the
doors stood for repentance, as the entrance; the Font, just within,
showed that none could enter save by the Laver of Regeneration; the
holiest part was to the east, as looking for the Sun of Righteousness.
This portion is called the chancel, and belongs to the clergy, as the
Sanctuary did to the priests of old; but the people are not as of old
cut off, but draw near in faith, to taste of the great Sacrifice
commemorated upon the Altar. The eagle desk for the Holy Scripture,
shows forth one Gospel emblem; the Litany desk is for times of
repentance, when the Priest may mourn between porch and altar. The dead
rested within and around, in the shadow of their church, and constant
services were celebrated, that so the gates might ever be open.
Even warriors sought to have their alms blessed by the Church; they
bound themselves not to fight on holy-days, such as Fridays and
Sundays; and before they could be made knights, they were obliged to
vow before God that they would always help the weak, never fight in a
bad cause, and always speak the truth. So that all would have been like
perfect fulfilment of Isaiah's promises of the glory of the Church,
save that man will still follow the devices of his own heart; and there
were shrines and altars where undue honour was paid to the Saints, and
too many superstitious observances were carried on before their images.
Prayers and alms were offered for departed souls, in the notion that
they were gone to Purgatory, a place where it was said their sins would
be purged away by suffering before the Day of Judgment, and whence
their friends might, as they imagined, assist them by their offerings.
People used to go on pilgrimage, and especially such as had fallen
into any great sin, would go through everything to pray at the Holy
Sepulchre for forgiveness. The Saracens, who had not been unkind to the
pilgrims, were subdued by a much fiercer set of Mahometans, the
Turcomans, who did everything to profane the holy places, and robbed
and misused the Christians who came to worship there. The news of this
profanation stirred up all Europe to deliver the Sanctuary from the
unbeliever. Monks went about preaching the holy war, and multitudes
took the cross, that is, fastened on their shoulder one cut out in
cloth, and vowed to win back Jerusalem. The Pope took upon himself to
say that whoever was killed in such a cause, would have all his sins
forgiven, and be in no danger of purgatory; and this be called an
indulgence. These wars were called Crusades. In the first, in 1098,
Jerusalem was conquered, and a very good and pious man, named Godfrey,
set up to be king, though he would not be crowned, saying he would
never wear a crown of gold where his Master had worn a crown of thorns.
But as the Greek Christians who already lived there, would not own the
Pope, but held to their own Patriarch, a Latin Patriarch was thrust in
and was in subjection to the Pope; and thus the unhappy schism grew
wider. After Godfrey's death, the Christians in Palestine did not
behave well, nor show themselves worthy to have the keeping of
Jerusalem; and though St. Bernard preached a second Crusade, and the
Emperor of Germany and King of France came to help them, their affairs
only grew worse and worse.
In 1186, after they had possessed the Holy City only eighty-eight
years, they were deprived of it; it was taken again by the Saracens,
and they retained only a few towns on the coast. All devout people
mourned that the unbeliever should again be defiling the sanctuary; but
the Pope had a great quarrel with the Emperor of Germany, and told the
poor credulous people that fighting his battles was as good as a
Crusade; and they began to forsake the Holy Land, and leave it to its
fate. Our own Richard the Lion Heart did his best, and so did the
excellent French king, St. Louis, who died in Africa on his way to the
Crusade, but all in vain; and finally the Christians were driven out of
Acre, their last town, and Palestine became Mahometan again with only a
few oppressed Christians here and there. Then came a much more rude,
dull, and violent race of Mahometans, the Turks, who burst out of the
East, conquered the Saracens, gained all Asia Minor, and at last, in
the year 1453, they took the city of Constantinople, killed the last
emperor, Constantine, in the assault, and won all the country we now
call Turkey, where they sadly oppressed the Greeks, though they could
not make them turn from their true Catholic faith. It was then that the
light of truth faded entirely away from Ephesus and the Churches of
Asia; a blight fell wherever the Turks went, and cities, once
prosperous, were deserted and ruined. Tyre was one of these; and she
has now become a mere rock, where fishermen spread their nets to dry
upon the sea-shore, as Ezekiel had foretold. However, it was only forty
years afterwards, that the last remains of the Mahometan conquerors
were chased out of Spain, so that it became again an entirely Christian
LESSON XXXII. THE REFORMATION.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field.”—
Matt. xiii. 44.
When the Services of the Church were first drawn up, almost everyone
in the East spoke Greek, and most people in the West understood Latin;
and when the Teutons learnt Christianity, they also, with it, learnt a
little Latin. Thus the Prayers and the Scriptures remained in that
tongue, but the people themselves spoke each their own language.
German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian are mixtures in different
degrees of Latin and Teuton, and only learned persons who understood
the old language, could follow the Prayers, or read the Bible. So the
people missed more and more of the real truth and meaning of sacred
things; and some of the clergy who had grown corrupt, took advantage of
their ignorance and deceived them. Whereas the Pope had once declared
that those who went on a Crusade were sure of dying in a state of
salvation, he now declared, that to give alms for building the great
Church of St. Peter at Rome, would answer the same purpose; and
indulgences, namely, promises of so many years less of purgatory, used
to be absolutely sold; and it was very difficult to set these errors
right, for anyone who was thought to speak against the doctrine of the
Church, was liable to be punished by being burnt to death. This was
quite contrary to the ways of the early Church, which, however bad a
heretic might have been, never attempted to harm his person, but only
separated him from her Communion.
As the Holy Spirit within the Church is ever cleansing and
sanctifying it, witnesses against these errors began to be raised up.
The way to print books, instead of writing them out, had been
discovered in the fifteenth century; and as this art made them much
more cheap and common, many more people began to read and to think. In
the year 1517, a German monk, named Martin Luther, began to declare how
far the selling of indulgences was from the doctrine of the Apostles;
and he spoke such plain truth, that he convinced a great number of
Germans, and there was a great longing for the cleansing of the Church,
especially after Luther had translated the Bible into his own tongue,
and everyone could see how unlike the teaching there was to what had
been so long believed.
In England, King Henry VIII. separated from the Roman Church because
the Pope would not please him by breaking a marriage, which certainly
never ought to have been sanctioned; but which having been permitted by
the Pope, and having continued twenty years, it was very wrong to
dissolve. He called himself Head of the Church in England; and though
he believed all the later errors, he allowed the Lessons to be read
from a new English translation of the Bible. He pretended to reform the
convents, some of which were in a very bad state, and had forgotten
their rules; but instead of setting them to rights, he seized their
wealth, and turned all the monks and nuns adrift.
The new notions were favoured by his break with the Pope. The whole
Western Church was in a ferment; the reformers were constantly writing
and preaching against the many errors of the Roman Church, and were
rejoicing over the real treasure of true faith they had found hidden
within her. Many other sincere and good men were shocked at such
disobedience to what they had once respected; and unhappily, almost all
the Italian clergy and cardinals were so food of the riches and power
in which they were maintained by misleading the people, that they
dreaded nothing so much as having them set right.
The Emperor, Charles V., strove hard to bring about a General
Council of the Church, as the only hope of making matters right, but he
was much hindered by his wars with the King of France, and by the
double dealing of the Pope; and in the meantime Luther and his friends
drew up a protest against the false doctrines of Rome, and were, for
that reason, called Protestants. In Switzerland and France, another
reformer, named John Calvin, was preaching against the doctrine of the
Pope; and though he neglected what the Church of old pure times had
decided, and thus threw away much that was good, as well as much that
was untrue, great numbers followed him; but unfortunately, none of the
higher clergy on the Continent would listen to these views, and there
seemed no choice but to accept falsehood, or to break into a schism.
After many trials, Charles V. got together some Italian, Spanish, and
German clergy at Trent, in the Tyrol, and called them a council; but
this was far from being a true General Council, as there was nobody
from the Eastern Church, nor from many branches of the Western. The
Protestants knew they should not be fairly treated, and that if these
Italians should decide that they were heretics, they might very
probably be burnt; so, instead of coming to it, they acted as the early
Christians never did, they took up arms and fought, and this attempt at
a council broke up in confusion.
Things were happier in England. After the death of Henry VIII.,
Archbishop Cranmer, and the other guardians of his little son, Edward
VI., set to work to clear away the corruptions from the Church in
England, so as to make it as like as they could to what it had been in
the Apostles' time. The Bible had been translated, and they put the
whole Prayer-Book into English, leaving out all that savoured of
idolatry, all the notions about purgatory, and everything of error, and
keeping the real old precious services of the early Church, restoring
to the people the blessed privilege of the Cup, while the Bishops,
Priests, and Deacons, went on in an uninterrupted line, as from the
beginning. On Edward's early death, his sister, Queen Mary, who was
married to Philip II., the son of the Emperor, thought all these
changes very wicked, and endeavoured to put them down. Four Bishops,
Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and Hooper, were burnt for their share in
them, with many other persons, and England was again reconciled to
Rome; but Mary only reigned five years, and her sister Elizabeth was a
sound Churchwoman, and held fast by the Catholic English Church in her
Philip II., the son of Charles V., managed to accomplish another
sitting of the Council of Trent, and the Church of Rome considers it a
true council, though there were only two hundred and fifty-five
Bishops, and they condemned the Protestants without hearing their
defence. It did some good to the Romish Church by putting down the sale
of indulgences, and some bad practices of the clergy; but it bound her
to all the errors renounced by the Reformers, and put her into a state
of schism from the Catholic Church.
The Lutheran Protestants in Germany, and the Calvinists in France,
Holland, and Scotland, as they could have no bishops, made up their
minds that none were needed, though this was quite contrary to
Scripture, and to the ways of the Apostles. There was a sad time of
warfare through all the centre of Europe; and the Spaniards and French
horribly persecuted the Protestants and Calvinists, thinking in their
blindness that they were thus doing God service; but Queen Elizabeth
stood up as the firm friend of all the distressed Reformers; and at
last matters settled down again, though not till all Christianity had
been grievously shattered and rent, and there was no more outward
There were four branches of the Church Catholic keeping their
Bishops, the Greek, the Roman, the English, the Swedish; but none of
these were in outward communion the one with the other, though still
owning one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and waging the same fight with
the Devil and his works. The Roman Church was spread over all Italy,
Spain, France, and great part of Germany, and tried to force down all
differences of opinion by cruel and bloody means, caring more for unity
than for truth, and boasting of being the only Catholic Church, instead
of only one branch of it. The Lutheran doctrine was taught in Norway,
Denmark, and many parts of Germany, and the Calvinist teaching gained a
great hold in Holland, Scotland, and on such French as were not Roman
Catholic. The Greek Church meanwhile stood fast through much
tribulation in the Turkish dominions, and had gradually won the whole
great Russian Empire, where, as the people ceased to be barbarous, they
became most devout members of the ancient unchanging Greek Catholic
LESSON XXXIII. COLONIZATION.
“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the
curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and
strengthen thy stakes.”—Isaiah, liv. 2.
Just as the Reformation was beginning, fresh lands were being found
beyond the Atlantic Ocean, where the knowledge of the Gospel might
reach. Christopher Columbus, a gallant Genoese mariner, and deeply
religious man, was full of the notion that by sailing westwards he
might come round to India, and thence make a way for winning back the
Holy Land. After much weary waiting, and many entreaties, he obtained
three little ships from Queen Isabel of Spain; and with them, in the
year 1492, came to the islands which he named the West Indies, lovely
places, full of gentle natives with skins of a dark ruddy colour,
wearing, for their misfortune, golden ornaments. To get gold was the
great longing of the Spaniards, and they did not care what cruelties
they used so that they could obtain it. The Pope, finding in the
prophecies that the isles of the sea should belong to the Church,
considered that this gave him a right to give them away to whomsoever
he pleased; so he made a grant of all to the west to the Spaniards, all
to the east to the Portuguese. Thereupon great numbers of the Spaniards
went over to America; they conquered the two great empires of Mexico
and Peru, and settled in the West-Indian Islands, robbing the poor
natives of their gold and silver, making slaves of them, and hunting
them with blood-hounds when they tried to run away. Many good priests
who went out as missionaries did all they could to hinder these
horrors, but in vain; and when at last the poor delicate Indians began
to dwindle away and die off, the plan was resorted to of bringing
negroes from Africa to work in their stead. Though it was a good man
who thought of it, in the hope of saving the Indians and making the
negroes Christians, it came to most horrible cruelty, and was a
disgrace to Christian Europe.
However, these faithful priests worked hard in teaching and
converting the Indians all over South America. One brotherhood, called
the Jesuits, had great establishments, where they trained up large
villages of Indiana in Christian habits, and taught them to be very
faithful and industrious. But at home, in Europe, these Jesuits did
harm by stepping out of their work as ministers, interfering with
governments more than was right, and trying to keep up the authority of
the Pope more than real Catholic truth. They taught so many false
stories as articles of faith, that at last clever people, wise in their
own conceit, began to believe nothing, and became like the fool who
said in his heart, “There is no God.” So there came to be a bad feeling
against all the clergy, and the Jesuits, who had made themselves very
meddling and troublesome, were put down at the entreaty of several
kings. When they were taken away from their converts in South America,
it turned out that the poor Indians had not steadfastness enough to
take care of themselves; so all their well-ordered establishments were
broken up, and the people ran wild again. All the Spanish settlers, of
whom there were many, still held fast to their Church, and all the
coast of the Continent of South America is Roman Catholic.
The English and Dutch had not been slow to find their way to the
West, but they went to the colder North instead of to the South, and
sought good land more than gold. Some of the English had, during Queen
Mary's reign, made friends with some of the Dutch and German
Calvinists, who fancied that whatever Roman Catholics had done must be
wrong, instead of only a part, and who cared nothing for the ways of
the Apostolic Primitive Church. So when the true Catholic faith was
upheld by Queen Elizabeth; by James I., who caused our translation of
the Bible to be made by forty-eight learned Hebrew and Greek scholars;
and by Charles I., who gave Bishops and a Prayer-Book to Scotland,
there were many persons who grew impatient and angry that more changes
were not made. These broke away from the Church, calling themselves
Puritans and Independants, and living in a state of schism. Some, too,
thought the king had too much power; and in Charles's time a great many
went away and settled in North America, that they might have freedom,
and worship in their own way. Those who stayed at home went on to that
rebellion against Church and King, which ended in the Scottish
Calvinists betraying King Charles, and the English Independants putting
him to death for upholding the Bishops, after Archbishop Laud had been
beheaded. For nearly eleven years the Bishops were put down, the clergy
persecuted, and the use of the Prayer-Book forbidden in England, while
all sorts of sects rose up and explained the Bible as they pleased.
When, at length, Charles II. came back, and the Church was
re-established in England, many more went to the colonies; and though
there was a Church settlement in Virginia, the great mass of the North
American colonists were Calvinists or Presbyterians, as they are
called, because presbyters are their highest order of their ministry,
though they cannot be really commissioned priests, never having been
ordained by Bishops come down from the Apostles.
The English began to spread fast on every side, as their nation grew
stronger and more numerous. They conquered several of the West-Indian
Isles, and the Church was there established; but, to their disgrace,
they carried on the slave-trade, to supply the settlers with workmen.
In the East-Indies, too, they began to acquire large tracts by conquest
and by treaty, and a few churches were built there; but they had not
tried to convert the great number of heathens who became subject to
them, fearing that, should they take offence, they would shake off
their dominion. Such clergy as did go out were ordained in England.
There was as yet no Bishop to overlook the colonial Churches, so that
they could not take deep root.
Still the English Church was living as a witness of the truth at
home, with many a great and holy man within her, such as Bishop Taylor,
whose beautiful writings are loved by all; Bishop Ken, whose loyalty to
Church and King witnessed a good confession, and whose hymns are like
part of the Prayer-Book; Bishop Wilson, whose devotions for home and at
the Holy Eucharist are our great guide, with more good and humble men
and women than the world will ever know of; and this, under God's
mercy, saved the nation from falling into the unbelieving state of
France, where people thought it fine to laugh at all religion. There,
in the end of the eighteenth century, a terrible outbreak took place
against all authority, human or Divine; the King and Queen perished by
the hands of their subjects; quantities of blood was shed, and for a
time it seemed as if the country was given up to demons; the faithful
clergy fled or remained hidden; and though at last people began to
return to their senses, the shock to loyalty and religion has never
been entirely recovered in that country.
LESSON XXXIV. THE SPREAD OF THE
The fearful effects of infidelity in France roused good men
everywhere; and the Church began to show that power of reviving and
purifying herself, which proves that the Lord abideth with her for
Some time before things had come to this pass, an English clergyman,
named John Wesley, had been striving to awaken people to a more
religious life; but he did not sufficiently heed the authority of the
Church; and his followers, after his death, quite separated themselves
from her, and became absolute schismatics, with meeting-houses and
ministers of their own, calling themselves Methodists. Still his
fervour and earnestness stirred up many within the Church; and from
that time there was much more desire to fulfil the mission of
Christians by bringing others to the knowledge of the truth.
Sunday-schools began to be set up to assist the catechizing in Church
enjoined in the Prayer-Book, and often instead of it; and there was a
growing eagerness to convert the heathen abroad. The great possessions
and wide trade of England seemed to mark her as especially intended for
this work. Some persons went about it by giving their money to any
Missionary Society that made fair promises, without heeding whether it
were schismatic or not; others had more patience, and trusted their
alms to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which was
managed by the English Bishops.
The American colonies had, by this time, grown impatient of the
English Government, and had shaken it off, calling themselves the
United States. The Church people among them obtained some Bishops from
the Scottish branch of the Church, which the Calvinists had never been
able to put down; and every one of the many United States has now a
Bishop of its own.
Calcutta was the first English colony to receive a Bishop, in the
year 1814. The second Bishop was Reginald Heber, whose beautiful hymns
seem the birthright of our Church, like those of Bishop Ken, one
hundred and fifty years before. Still very little was done with the
natives of India; they were attached to their foul old religion, and
Government forbade any open measures against it, though here and there
was a conversion; and there have at length come to be three Bishops'
Sees, and in the south of the peninsula, in the See of Madras, there
are a hopeful number of Christians. The work would everywhere proceed
better if there were no schism, so that all Christians could work
together. Ceylon also has a Bishop, and many are there gathered in. On
the borders of China likewise there is an English Bishopric; and within
that empire the French Roman Catholics have been working steadily for
many years to win a few of those obstinate heathen to the faith, but
with little success, and often receiving the crown of martyrdom.
The French are very ardent missionaries, bearing joyously all kinds
of privations, and forming their stations wherever they see any hope of
gaining converts. The Sisters of Charity—good women under a vow to
spend their lives in nursing and teaching—do much to show what the
real fruit of Christianity is; and they are to be found wherever there
is trouble or distress. There is a great college at Rome, called the
Propaganda, where every language under the sun is taught, in order
to fit persons for missionary work,
Our own St. Augustine's College at Canterbury is intended to prepare
young men to become English missionaries; and north, south, east, and
west, are the good tidings spreading, now that the days are come of
which Daniel said: “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be
The English West Indies were first forbidden to import slaves; next,
all the slaves were set free; and there are now four Bishoprics for
their black and white population. All negroes seized in the ships of
other nations, on their way to be made slaves, are brought back to
Sierra Leone, on the coast of Africa, there set free, and taught to be
Christians under a Bishop of our Church; and the Christian blacks are
beginning to carry the message of salvation into the other parts of
Africa, where the climate is so hurtful to Englishmen, that only the
negro race could there do the work.
South Africa has three Bishops to rule their English settlers, win
the Dutch farmers to the Church, and convert the Hottentots and Zulus.
And from them a Missionary Bishop has been sent out to the heathen
tribes in the interior of the continent.
North America contains nine great Bishops' Sees, and the huge Island
of Australia six. New Zealand, scarcely discovered till within the last
fifty years, has three Bishops of her own, ruling over a population of
English, and of Christian natives, men whose fathers were cannibals,
but who are now hearty Christians; and it is the centre whence a
Mission Bishop is seeking to gain to the Church the inhabitants of the
beautiful islands that thickly dot the Pacific Ocean. Many of these
islanders have become Christian, under the teaching of missionaries
from the other Societies; and though great numbers still remain savage
heathens, yet the light of the Gospel is in the course of shining upon
all the islands far away. Everywhere the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and
the Ten Commandments, in the vulgar tongue, are being taught, and each
convert is gathered in by baptism and fed by the Holy Eucharist, as
when the apostles first went forth; and no one can mark the great
spread of the Church within the last fifty years, without feeling that
the blessing of God is with her. The Greek Church has done less; but
though still enslaved in Turkey, in Greece she is free, and the yoke of
the Mahometan is there shaken off, after her long patience and
There are dark spots in all this brightness, for Rome still teaches
the same errors mixed up with the truth, and the spirit of unbelief is
to be found far and wide, questioning and explaining away all the
mysteries it cannot understand.
We know that it must be so, for it was to fight with sin that Christ
came into the world, and left His Church there; and St. Paul prophesied
that evil men and seducers should wax worse and worse, deceiving and
being deceived. Daniel too, foresaw that the little horn should spring
up, and do very wickedly; and all the tenor of prophecy in the Epistles
declares that times of trouble and temptation must try the Church.
It seems that there has been, even from the Apostles' times, an evil
spirit opposing himself to our Lord, and therefore called by St. John
the Anti-Christ. His manifestations have broken out in many ways—in
Arianism, in Mahometanism, perhaps in the great errors of Rome, and
more lately, in Infidelity, and in Mormonism; and it would seem that
there is to be some much more dreadful development of “that wicked one"
exalting himself against Christ, and severely trying the elect. But we
have a certain promise, that come what may, Christ will never forsake
His chosen flock; and those who try to hold fast the faith once
delivered to the Saints, and to keep the law of love, clinging to their
own true branch of the Church, may be sure that He Who has redeemed
them, will guard them from all evil, and that they will share in His
glory when He shall come with all His holy angels to put all enemies
under His feet. Then He shall sit on His great white Throne, and gather
His elect from the four winds to dwell in the eternal Jerusalem, which
needs neither sun nor moon, for the Lamb is the light thereof.
LESSON I. 1. In what state was the
Earth when first created?
2. To what trial was man subjected?
3. What punishment did the Fall bring on man?
4. How alone could his guilt be atoned for? A. By his punishment
being borne by one who was innocent.
5. What was the first promise that there should be such an
atonement?—Gen. iii. 15.
6. What were the sacrifices to foreshow?
7. Why was Abel's offering the more acceptable?
8. From which son of Adam was the Seed of the woman to spring?
9. How did Seth's children fall away?
10. What was Enoch's prophecy?—Jude, 14, 15.
11. Who was chosen to be saved out of the descendants of Seth?
12. How was the world punished?
13. In what year was the Flood?
14. Where did the ark first rest?
15. What were the terms of the covenant with Noah?
16. Which of Noah's sons was chosen?
17. What was the prophecy of Noah?—Gen. ix. 25, 26, 27.
18. What lands were peopled by Ham's children?
19. What became of Shem's children?
20. What became of Japhet's children?
LESSON II. 1. Whom did God separate
among the sons of Shem?
2. What were the terms of the covenant with Abraham? A. Abraham
believed, and God promised that his descendants should have the land of
Canaan, and in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed.
3. What was the token of the covenant with Abraham?
4. Which son of Abraham inherited the promise?
5. Who were the sons of Ishmael?
6. What measure was taken to keep Isaac from becoming mixed with
7. Which of Isaac's sons was chosen?
8. Why was Esau rejected?
9. What was the promise to Esau?—Gen. xxvii. 39, 40.
10. By what names were the descendants of Esau called?
11. Where did the Edomites live?
12. What sea was named from them?
13. What were the habits of the Edomites?
14. Who is thought to have been the great prophet of Idumea?
15. What was the prophecy of Job?—Job, xix. 25, 26, 27.
16. How was Jacob's name changed?
17. Who were to be in the covenant after him?
18. What prophecy was there of the Israelites going into Egypt?—
Gen. xv. 13.
19. Which son of Jacob was to be father of the promised Seed?
20. What was Jacob's prophecy of the Redeemer?—Gen. xlix.
LESSON III. 1. Who were the
2. What kind of place was Egypt?
3. What remains have we of the ancient Egyptians?
4. What were the idols of Egypt?
5. How long were the Israelites in Egypt?
6. How were they treated in Egypt? 7. What prophetic Psalm is said
to have been composed in Egypt?—P_s. I. xxxviii.
8. Who was appointed to lead them out?
9. How was Moses prepared for the work?
10. How did God reveal Himself to Moses?
11. What wonders were wrought on the Egyptians?
12. What token of faith was required of the Israelites at their
13. What feast was appointed in remembrance of the deliverance from
LESSON IV. 1. How many Israelites did
Moses lead into the wilderness?
2. How were they supported there?
3. What was the difference between the covenant with Abraham, and
the covenant on Mount Sinai?
4. How did the Israelites forfeit the covenant?
5. How was God entreated to grant it to them again?
6. What signs of the covenant did they carry with them?
7. How was Moses instructed in their observances?
8. What was the Tabernacle to figure?
9. What did all the ceremonies shadow out?
10. Why were the Israelites to be kept separate from other nations?
11. How were they trained in the wilderness?
12. How long did they wander there?
13. Why did not Moses enter the land of Canaan?
14. What were the two great prophecies of the Redeemer which were
given in the wilderness?—Num. xxiv. 17. Deut. xviii. 15.
15. What books were written by Moses?
16. What Psalm was written by Moses?—P_s. xc.
LESSON V. 1. In what year did the
Israelites enter Canaan?
2. What kind of country was Canaan?
3. Where was the first seat of the Tabernacle in Canaan?
4. How was the inheritance of the tribes arranged?
5. Why did not the Israelites occupy the whole of their territory at
6. Who were the Phoenicians?
7. What were the chief cities of the Phoenicians?
8. Who were the chief gods of the Canaanites?
9. How were the Israelites governed?
10. What was the consequence of their falling from the true worship?
11. Who were their chief enemies?
12. In what book in the Bible is this history related?
13. For how long a period did the rule of the Judges last?
14. What crime brought on them the loss of the Ark?
15. How was the Ark sent back?
16. What was the prophecy of the Redeemer during this period? —1
Sam. ii. 35.
17. Who was the first of the Prophets and last of the Judges?
LESSON VI. 1. When did the Israelite
2. Who was the first king of Israel?
3. On what conditions was Saul to reign?
4. What was Saul's great error?
5. Who was chosen in Saul's stead?
6. Of what tribe was David?
7. What was David's great excellence?
8. What were David's exploits?
9. How was David prepared for the throne?
10. What terrible massacre did Saul commit in his hatred of David?
11. What prophecy was thus fulfilled?—1 Sam. ii. 32, 33.
12. What was the beginning of David's kingdom?
13. What was the end of Saul?
14. Who reigned over the rest of Israel?
15. What became of Ishbosheth?
16. What were David's conquests?
17. What is the meaning of the name Jerusalem?
18. How did David regulate the service before the Ark?
19. Which are David's chief prophecies of our Lord?—P_s.
20. Which Psalm marks David as our Lord's forefather?—lxxxix.
21. Why was not David permitted to build the Temple?
22. How long did David reign?
23. What was the site of the Temple?
24. How was the Divine Presence marked there?
25. For what was Solomon's reign remarkable?
26. How did Solomon fall away?
27. What was to be his punishment?
28. What are the prophecies of Solomon? A. Prov. viii. and
ix.—where our Lord is spoken of as the Divine Wisdom.—P_s. xlv.
The Song of Solomon on the mystical union of Christ and His Church.—
LESSON VII. 1. How did Rehoboam bring
about the accomplishment of the sentence on Solomon?
2. What tribes were left to him?
3. How was he prevented from making war on Jeroboam?
4. Who was the Egyptian king who invaded Judea?
5. Who succeeded Rehoboam?
6. Who succeeded Abijah?
7. What was Jehoshaphat's great error?
8. Into what danger did Ahab send him?
9. What great deliverances were vouchsafed to Jehoshaphat?
10. How did Jehoram act on coming to the throne?
11. How was he punished?
12. What became of Ahaziah?
13. Who was Athaliah?
14. Why could she not entirely destroy the seed royal?
[Footnote 1: These references are to the Prayer-Book version.] 15.
What prophecy was fulfilled by these massacres?—2 Sam. xii. 10.
16. How was Joash preserved?
17. How was he restored to the throne?
18. How did Joash reign?
19. What was the sin of Amaziah?
20. What was the sin of Uzziah?
21. How was the sin of Uzziah punished?
22. Who reigned in Uzziah's stead?
23. Who began to prophesy in Uzziah's time? A. Isaiah.
24. What was the character of Ahaz?
25. How was the sin of Ahaz punished?
26. What were Isaiah's chief prophecies of our Lord? A. Isaiah, vii. 14.—ix. 6.—xi.—xii.—xxxii.—xxxv.—xl.—xlii.—l. 5, 6.—li.
13, 14, 15.—liii.—lxiii.
LESSON VIII. 1. Where had the
greatness of Joseph's children been foretold?
A. Gen. xlix. 25, 26. Deut. xxxiii. 13, 14, 15, 16,
2. How did Jeroboam forfeit these blessings?
3. What warnings did he receive?
4. Who overthrew the house of Jeroboam?
5. What kings reigned next?
6. What city did Omri make his capital?
7. How had the site of Samaria been made remarkable?—Deut,
8. What was the difference between the sin of Jeroboam and the sin
9. How was Ahab influenced?
10. What prophet warned him?
11. What proofs were given that the Lord is the only God?
12. Who were the chief enemies of Israel?
13. What was the fate of Ahab?
14. Who became prophet after Elijah? 15. Who executed judgment on
the house of Ahab?
16. How long was the house of Jehu to continue?
17. How did Joash disobey Elisha?—2 Kings, xiii. 19.
18. What prophets succeeded Elisha?—A. Hosea and Amos.
19. What was Hosea's prophecy of Redemption?—Hosea, xiii.
20. What was Amos' prophecy of Redemption?—Amos, ix. 11-15.
21. What was the end of the house of Jeroboam?
22. Who were the two allies against Judah?
23. What generous action was done by the Ephraimites?
LESSON IX. 1. Who founded the
2. What is the description of Nineveh?
3. What prophet was sent to warn the Ninevites?
4. How did the Ninevites receive the message?
5. What prophetic book besides Jonah is concerned with Nineveh?
6. Which King of Nineveh was contemporary with Ahaz?
7. Why did Ahaz seek the alliance of Tiglath Pileser?
8. What victories did the Ninevites gain?
9. What was the effect upon Judah?
10. What profanation did Ahaz commit in the Temple?
11. Who was the successor of Ahaz?
12. Who was the last King of Samaria?
13. What partial reformation took place in Israel?
14. What was the punishment of the Israelites?
15. Where were the Israelites placed?
16. What was the next conquest attempted by the Assyrians?
17. How was the danger turned away?
18. What apocryphal book mentions the history of an Israelite
19. What great mercy was vouchsafed to Hezekiah?
20. How did he show that he was uplifted?
21. What was the rebuke for his display? 22. Who was the King of
Nineveh after Sennacherib? A. Esarhaddon, also called Sardocheus, and
23. What apocryphal history is supposed to have taken place at this
24. How did Esarhaddon fill the empty land of Samaria?
25. What request was made by these heathen colonists?
26. Of what race were they the parents?
27. What additions were made to the Holy Scriptures in Hezekiah's
28. What is Micah's chief prophecy?—Micah, v. 2, 3, 4.
29. Who reigned after Hezekiah?
30. How were the crimes of Manasseh punished?
31. What was the end of Nineveh?
32. What is the present state of Nineveh?
LESSON X. 1. What was the character
2. What reformation did Josiah make?
3. What discovery was made in cleansing the Temple?
4. Why was the Law of Moses so awful to Josiah?
5. What answer did Huldah make to Josiah's inquiries?
6. What was the great merit of Josiah?
7. What prophecy did Josiah exactly fulfil?—1 Kings, xiii.
2. 31, 32,
8. Who were the prophets of Josiah's time? A. Jeremiah, Zephaniah,
and a little later, Habbakuk.
9. What was Josiah's situation with regard to his neighbours?
10. Why was he forced to go out to battle?
11. How does Jeremiah speak of Josiah's death?—-Jer. xxii.
12. How had Isaiah foretold it?—Isaiah, lvii. 1.
13. What two names had the successor of Josiah?
14. What fate did Jeremiah foretell for him?—Jer. xxii. 11,
15. Whither was Jehoahaz carried captive?
16. Who was set up instead of Jehoahaz?
17. What did Jeremiah predict concerning Jehoiakim? Jer.
xxii. 18, 19.
18. By whose favour had Jehoiakim been set up?
19. Who was Jehoiakim's enemy?
20. What injury did Nebuchadnezzar inflict in 606?
21. What prophet was then carried captive? A. Daniel.
22. What was the promise of Jeremiah?—Jer. xxv. 12.
23. Why was Jeremiah persecuted?
24. What was the great wilfulness of these kings?
25. What was the end of Jehoiakim?
26. By what names was his son called?
27. What does Jeremiah say of Jehoiachin?—Jer. xxii 24 to
28. Was he really childless? A. Either he was childless, and
Salathiel was his adopted son of another branch of David's family, or
else it meant that his son should not reign.
29. What became of Jehoiachin?
30. What prophet was carried off in this captivity?
31. Who was the last King of Judah?
32. What message did Ezekiel send Zedekiah?—Ez. xxii. 25,
33. What was Ezekiel's lamentation for the sons of Josiah? —Ez. xix. I-9.
34. What were Ezekiel's chief prophecies of the Redeemer? —Ez. xxxiv. 23, 24.—xxxvii. 24, 25, 26.
35. What was Zedekiah's duty?
36. How did he show his want of faith?
37. What was the consequence?
38. What was the prophecy of Ezekiel that Zedekiah thought
impossible?—Ez. xii. 13.
39. What were the sufferings of Jeremiah in the siege of Jerusalem?
40. What prophecies of Moses had their first fulfilment in this
siege?—Deut. xxviii. 52, 53.
41. Who boasted over Jerusalem?
42. What was the desolation of Jerusalem?
43. Which book in the Holy Scripture mourns over it? A. The book of
Lamentations of Jeremiah.
44. What became of Jeremiah?
45. How did the remnant act who were left in Judea?
46. Who was the prophet who spoke against Edom? A. Obadiah.
47. What was the great prophecy of Jeremiah?—Jer. xxiii. 5,
48. What was the year of the taking of Jerusalem?
LESSON XI. 1. Who were the
2. What does Isaiah say of the origin of the Chaldeans?—Is.
3. Who was their chief god, and how was he worshipped?
4. Describe Babylon.
5. What were the prophecies of the state of the Jews in captivity?—
Lev. xxvi. 33, 34.—38, 39.—Jer. v. 19.
6. What change for the better passed over the Jews?
7. Who were the royal children brought up as slaves?
8. How had their slavery been foretold?—Is. xxxix. 7.
9. What instance of self-denying faith was given by them?
10. How was Daniel's inspiration first made known?
11. What was the first dream of Nebuchadnezzar?
12. What was the interpretation?
13. What judgment is recorded of Daniel in the Apocrypha?
14. What proof did the other princes give of their faith?
15. What is the hymn of praise said to have been sung by them in the
16. What was the effect on Nebuchadnezzar?
17. Where had Edom's fell been foretold? A. Numb. xxiv.
18-21, 22.—Jer. xlix. 7-22.—Obadiah.
18. What other conquest did Nebuchadnezzar effect? 19. Where had the
fall of Tyre been predicted? A. Is. xxiii.—Ez. xxvi.
20. How soon was a new Tyre built?
21. What was to be the recompence for the toils of the siege of
22. Where is the ruin of Egypt foretold? A. Is. xix. 1 to
20.—Jer. xliii. 8 to 13.—xlvi.—Ez. xxx. xxxi. xxxii.
23. What was the end of the Pharaohs?
24. What was Nebuchadnezzar's second dream?
25. What was the meaning and the fulfilment?
26. What acknowledgment did Nebuchadnezzar make?
27. In what year did he die?
28. Who was his successor?
29. What was the first vision of Daniel?
30. What was the interpretation?
31. What was the second vision of Daniel?
32. What was the meaning?
33. How were the visions explained to Daniel?
LESSON XII. 1. What was the power
which was to overcome the Assyrian?
2. How had the Persian power been figured in the visions?—Dan. ii. 32.—vii. 5.—viii. 3, 4.
3. What was the meaning of the two horns of the Ram?
4. What was the difference between the Medes and Persians?
5. What was the religion of the Persians?
6. What was the character of Cyrus?
7. Who was the reigning King of Babylon?
8. What was the trust of the Babylonians?
9. But what had been foretold concerning Cyrus?—Is. xlv. I,
10. How did Cyrus attempt to gain an entrance?
11. How were the Babylonians prevented from being on the watch?
12. What awful warning interrupted Belshazzar's feast?
13. Who interrupted the writing?
14. How had Jeremiah foretold the taking of Babylon by the Medes? —
Jer. l. 35 to li.
15. How long was the captivity to last?—Jer. xxv. 11.—xxix.
16. What had been the promise of Moses?—Lev. xxvi. 44.
17. What had been the prayer of Solomon?—1 Kings, viii. 46
18. What had Isaiah said of Cyrus?—Is. xliv. 28.—xlv. 13.
19. Who made intercession for the fulfilment of these prophecies?
20. How was Daniel's prayer answered?
21. What great promise was made to Daniel?—Dan. ix. 24 to
22. In what year was the decree for the restoration of Jerusalem
23. Who governed Babylon?
24. What was the proof of Daniel's faith?
25. What story is told of his destroying the worship of Bel?
26. How had Isaiah foretold this overthrow?—Is. xlvi. 1,2.
27. What was revealed to Daniel in his last vision?
28. What was Daniel called? A. The man greatly beloved.
LESSON XIII. 1. How many Jews
returned from the captivity?
2. Who were the leaders of the return?
3. Who was Zerubbabel?
4. Why is it supposed that his father was only the adopted son of
Jehoiachin? A. Both because Jeremiah sentenced Coniah to be
childless, and in Luke iii. Zerubbabel's descent is derived from David,
5. What story is told of Zerubbabel's gaining favour with Darius?
6. What title did Zerubbabel bear?
7. What was the only inheritance left for him?
8. What was the blessing of God to Zerubbabel for his faith?—Hag. ii. 21 to 23.—Zech. iv, 6 to 10.
9. What were the prophetic blessings to Joshua the priest?—Zech. vi. 11-15.—Hag. ii. 4, 5.
10. Of what typical vision was Joshua the subject?—Zech.
11. What are Zechariah's other remarkable prophecies of
Redemption?—Zech. ix. 9 to 12.—xi. 12, 13.—xii. 8-10.—xiii.
12. What was the condition of Jerusalem?
13. What was the promise of restoration?—Zech. viii. 3, 4,
14. What was the first measure of Zerubbabel and Joshua?
15. Where had directions been given for the new Temple?
A. In the latter chapters of Ezekiel, but these were a further
prophecy of the New Tabernacle in Heaven.
16. How soon was the Temple begun?
17. What were the feelings of the people?
18. What promise did Haggai give?—Hag. ii. 6, 7-9.
19. What rebuke did Haggai give the Jews?
20. What interference befell the Jews?
21. Why was all intercourse with the Samaritans forbidden?
22. How did the Samaritans revenge themselves?
23. What was the state of the Persian court?
24. What was the end of Cambyses?
25. What was the story of the impostor, Smerdis?
26. Who became King of Persia?
27. What history did Darius's governors send to him?—Ezra,
v. 7, &c.
28. How were they answered?—See Ezra, vi.
29. What revolt took place in the time of Darius?
30. What prophecies were here fulfilled?—Ps. cxxxvii. 8, 9.
Is. xlvii. 7, 8, 9.
31. What were Darius's two vain expeditions?
32. What was the great expedition of Xerxes?
33. How had it been predicted?—Dan. xi. 2.
LESSON XIV. 1. Who is Ahasuerus
supposed to have been?
2. What was his great act of tyranny?
3. By what means did he try to repair the loss of Vashti?
4. Of what race was Esther?
5. Why would not Mordecai bow down to Haman?
6. What benefit did Mordecai do the king?
7. How did Haman seek revenge for Mordecai's scorn?
8. How did Esther conduct her intercession?
9. What great deliverance was given to the Jews?
10. What fresh aid was given to the building at Jerusalem?
11. What was the date of Ezra's arrival?
12. What is counted from this date?
13. Who was the other assistant who arrived?
14. How had Nehemiah obtained leave to come and assist?
15. In what state did he find the city?
16. What prophecies were' there of her desolation?—Ps. lxxx.
Is. xxxii. 13, 14.
17. What was Nehemiah's great work?
18. How were the Jews obliged to build?
19. How had this been foretold?—Dan. ix. 25.
20. What blessing had been laid up for Nehemiah?—Is. lviii.
21. What reformations did Ezra and Nehemiah bring about?
22. What became of the schismatical priest?
23. Where was the Samaritan temple?
24. Who was the last of the prophets?
25. What were his great predictions?—Mal. iii. I, 2, 3.
—iv. 2, 5, 6.
26. What books are thought to have been compiled by Ezra?
27. What Psalms were collected by Ezra?—From cvii. to the end.
28. What prophetic verse is ascribed to the time of Ezra?—cxviii.
29. What were the songs of degrees?—Ps. cxx. to cxxxiv. 30.
Who had the keeping of the Scriptures?
31. In what tongue were the early Scriptures?
32. What tongue was commonly spoken after the captivity?
33. What was therefore done when the Law was read?
34. What arrangement did Ezra make for public worship?
35. What was the synagogue service?
36. How were the Jews dispersed?
37. In what state was the Persian Empire?
LESSON XV. 1. Who were the Greeks?
2. Who was the chief Greek god?
3. What were the Greek philosophers trying to find out?—See Acts, xvii. 27, 28.
4. What were the Greek games?—See I Cor. ix. 24, &c.
5. Which were the two chief Greek cities?
6. What was the most learned of all cities?
7. Who subdued all the rest of Greece?
8. What was the name of the great King of Macedon?
9. How was Macedon figured in Daniel's visions?—Dan. vii.
6.—viii. 5, 6, 7.
10. What yet older prophecy was there of the Greek invasion?—Num. xxiv. 24.
11. What was Chittim? A. The east end of the Mediterranean.
12. In what year did Alexander enter Asia?
13. How was the swiftness of his conquests shown?
14. How did Darius go out to battle with him?
15. What cities did Alexander take in Palestine?
16. What was Zechariah's prophecy about Tyre?—Zech. ix. 2,
17. What was his prophecy about the Philistine cities?—Zech.
18. What about Jerusalem?—Zech. ix. 8.
19. How was Alexander received at Jerusalem?
20. What did he declare that he had seen?
21. What city did Alexander build in Egypt?
22. What became of Darius? 23. How far did Alexander spread his
24. What city did he wish to make his capital?
25. How did the Jews at Babylon show their constancy?
26. What befell Alexander at Babylon?
27. How had this been foreshown?—Dan, viii. 8.—xi. 3,4.
28. What was the year of Alexander's death?
29. What difference did his conquest make to the East?
30. What language was much learnt from his time?
31. What became of Babylon after his death?
32. How had the ruinous waste of Babylon been fore-told?—Isaiah, xiii. 19 to 22.—Jer. li. 43.
LESSON XVI. 1. How was the division
of Alexander's empire foreshown?—Dan. vii. 6.—viii. 8.
2. What were the four horns?
3. What was the Greek power in Nebuchadnezzar's dream?
4. Which of the Greek princes came in contact with Palestine?
5. What did the Angel call them in Dan. xi.?
6. What was the name of all the Greek kings of Egypt?
7. What were the names of the Greek kings of Syria?
8. To which of them did the Jews belong at first?
9. What colony did Ptolemy Lagus bring into Egypt?
10. What prophecy was thus fulfilled?—Isaiah, xix. 18.
11. How were the Jews treated?
12. Who was the high priest?
13. How is he spoken of in Ecclesiasticus?—Ecclus. I.
14. What was Simon's work with regard to the Holy Scripture?
15. What translation was made in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus?
16. What is the Greek translation called?
17. By how many persons was it made?
18. What marriage took place between the royal families of Egypt and
19. How had it been foretold?—Dan. xi. 6.
20. What revenge was taken for the murder of Berenice?
21. How was the expedition of Euergetes foretold?—Dan. xi.
22. How were the Jews becoming corrupted?
23. What had been the doctrine of Joseph?
24. What did Sadoc declare after him?
25. What were the disciples of Sadoc called?
26. What were the doctrines of the Sadducees?
27. What were those called who held aloof from them?
28. What kind of kings followed Ptolemy Euergetes?
29. What attempt was made by Ptolemy Philopator?
30. How was it frustrated?
31. What was the prophecy of Philopator's invasion?—Dan. xi.
32. What cruelty was attempted by him on his return to Egypt?
33. How were the Jews saved?
34. To whom did Judea give itself up?
35. How was the treason of the Jews predicted?—Dan, xi. 14.
36. In what year did the Jews pass from the Egyptian to the Syrian
LESSON XVII. 1. How was Antiochus's
punishment of the traitors foretold?—Dan. xi. 14.
2. What were the conquests predicted in the 15th verse?
3. How did he treat Judea?—verse 16th.
4. What alliance did he make?
5. What was the prophecy of this marriage?—verse 17th.
6. What expedition was predicted in the 18th verse?
7. What checked him in this expedition?
8. What became of Antiochus the Great?
9. How was this predicted?—verse 19.
10. Who were the Romans?
11. What were they in Nebuchadnezzar's dream?—Dan. ii. 33.
12. What were they in Daniel's vision?—Dan, vii. 7.
13. Why were they like iron?
14. To what were they most devoted?
15. What great Phoenician city had they conquered?
16. What yoke did the Romans impose on Syria?
17. What was the name of the successor of Antiochus?
18. How does Daniel describe him?—Dan. xi. 20.
19. What sacrilegious attempt was made in the time of Seleueus?
20. How was it punished?
21. What was the end of Seleueus?
22. Who succeeded him, and by what means?
23. How was the success of Antiochus Epiphanes foretold?—Dan. si.
24. What was he in Daniel's vision?—Dan. viii. 9.
25. What was his character?
26. How was his preference of Roman to Greek gods foretold?—Dan.
27. What terrible apostasy took place among the Jews?
28. How had Zechariah predicted the fall of the Priests? Zech. xi.
29. What war was predicted in Daniel xi.?
30. What wickedness was being perpetrated at Jerusalem?
31. How had this sacrilege been foretold?—verses 30, 31.—viii. 11,
32. How had the martyrdoms been foretold?—viii. 10.
33. What Psalms are applicable to this persecution?—
34. What were the most remarkable martyrdoms?
35. In what apocryphal book are they recorded?
36. What was the remarkable difference between these and Christian
LESSON XVIII. 1. What deliverers
were raised up for the Jews?
2. Why was the family of Mattathias called Asmonean?
3. How was Mattathias first roused to resistance?
4. What purification did Mattathias make?
5. What were the predictions of him and his sons?—Dan. xi. 32, 33.
6. Who succeeded Mattathias?
7. How arose the name of Maccabees?
8. What was the great work of Judaa Maccabaeus?
9. What was the end of Antiochus Epiphanes?
10. How had it been predicted?—Dan. xi. 44, 45.
11. What was the death of Eleazar?
12. How was the varying success of the Maccabees foretold?—Dan. xi.
13. What was the death of the apostate Menelam?
14. How had Zechariah spoken of him?—Zech, xi. 17.
15. How had Zechariah foretold these wars?—Zech, ix. 13.
16. Who succeeded Maccabaeus?
17. With whom did Jonathan make a treaty?
18. What success did Jonathan gain?
19. What became of Jonathan?
20. Who succeeded him?
21. What work did Simon complete?
22. What was the end of Simon?
23. Who was the successor of Simon?
24. What conquest was made by John Hyrcanus?
25. What prophecies were fulfilled by the fall of Edom?—Ps.
cxxxvii. 7.—Is. xxxiv. 6, to the end.—Joel, iii. 19.
26. What is the present state of Idumea?
LESSON XIX. 1. Who was the first
2. What prophecy thus had a fulfilment? A. Zech. vi. 13; but this
was only really accomplished in our Lord.
3. Who reigned after Aristobulus?
4. Who after Alexander Janneus?
5. What dispute broke out between the sons of Alexandra?
6. Who fostered the ill-will between the brothers?
7. To whose decision was the dispute referred?
8. What was it that made the Roman power so terrible?
9. How did the Romans extend their dominion?
10. What were the Roman triumphs?
11. How was the Roman army composed?
12. What was the Roman standard?
13. How did the Romans rule their conquered provinces?
14. Who alone could obtain law and justice?
15. Who had long ago described the Romans exactly? —Deut,
xxviii. 48, 49, 50, 51.
16. What Roman general first invaded Palestine?
17. By what means did Pompey take Jerusalem?
18. What presumptuous act did Pompey commit?
19. What was the punishment of Pompey's sacrilege?
20. What became of Aristobulus?
21. How did Pompey arrange the affairs of the Jews?
22. What troubles did Pompey meet with at home?
23. Who gained the chief power at Rome?
24. What country had Julius Caesar invaded?
25. What arrangements did Caesar make in Palestine?
26. Who was Herod?
27. What became of Julius Caesar?
28. Who divided his power on his death?
29. How did Herod gain favour from Antony?
30. Who put an end to the reign of Hyrcanus?
31. What exploits were done by Herod?
32. How did Herod make himself King?
33. Who was Herod's wife?
34. Who was High Priest?
35. What crimes did Herod's jealousy of the royal line lead him
36. How were the High Priests appointed after the murder of
37. How did Herod try to make up for his crimes?
38. Who had become Emperor of Rome?
39. What was the state of all the world?
40. What general expectation prevailed?
41. What had Augustus been told at a heathen temple?
42. What prophecy was fulfilled by Judea having an Edomite king?
—Gen. xlix. 10.
43. How long was it since the walls of Jerusalem had been built?
LESSON XX. 1. In what year of the
world did Augustus number his people?
2. What was the object of Augustus?
3. What was the real cause of this taxation?
4. What prophecies had foretold that the Messiah should be born of a
woman?—Gen. in. 15.—Is. vii. 14.—Jer. xxxi. 22.—Micah, v. 3.
5. How was Bethlehem fixed for His birth-place?—Micah, v. 2.
6. How was His birth foretold?—Is. ix. 6.
7. What allusion was there to His being received into a stable and
rejected by His townsmen?—Is. i. 3.
8. What were the rejoicings?
9. By what rite was He made obedient to the Law?
10. By whom had His Name been previously borne?
11. Who had prophesied of that Name?—Jer. xxiii. 6.
12. How was His presentation in the Temple foretold?—Hag. ii. 7 and
13. How was Simeon's greeting of Him foretold?—Is. xxv. 9.
14. How had He been marked out to the eastern nations as a
Star?—Numb. xxiv. 17.
15. What predictions were there of the coming and the gifts of the
eastern sages?—Ps. lxxii. 10-15.—Cant. iii. 6.—Is. lx. 3.
16. How had the massacre of the holy Innocents been predicted?—Jer.
xxxi. 15, 16, 17.
17. How had the flight and return from Egypt been foreshown?—Hos.
18. What was Herod's last crime?
19. What children did he leave?
20. Who first succeeded him?
21. Why was Archelaus deposed?
22. How was Palestine divided?
23. Who governed Judea?
24. What regulations for the Roman empire were made by Augustus?
25. What languages were everywhere spoken? 26. Who succeeded
Augustus, and in what year?
27. What were the predictions of our Lord's childhood?—Is.
vii. 15.—liii. 2.
28. How had David declared the wisdom He showed in the Temple?—
Ps. cxix. 99, 100.
29. Mention the prophecies of His forerunner?—Is. xl. 3.—
Mal. iv. 5, 6.
30. How had baptism with water been already employed?
31. How did our Lord sanctify baptism?
32. What had been the object of the Law which St. John brought to a
33. How did He show how the sins of which His disciples were
sensible might be removed?
34. Who were the first disciples?
35. Whom did they acknowledge in our Lord?—Deut. xviii. 15.
36. How had the miracles been promised as marks of the Messiah?—
Is. xxxii. 3, 4.—xxxv. 5, 6.
37. How had His gentleness been foretold?—Is. xi. 1 2, 3,
4.—xlii. I, 2, 3.—lxi. I, 2, 3.
38. How had the cleansing of the Temple been foretold?—Ps.
lxix. 9.—Mal. iii. 1, 2, 3.
39. What was the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist?
40. What was it that prevented the Jews from recognizing the
41. How had their rejection of Him been foretold?—Ps. lxix,
7, 8.—Is. liii. I, 2.
42. How had the triumphal entry into Jerusalem been predicted?—
Ps. viii. 2.—cxviii. 26.—Jer. xvii 25.—Zech. ix. 9.
43. How had the plots of the Pharisees been foretold?—Ps. x.
10, 11.—xxxv.—vii.—lvi. 5, 6.
44. Mention the prophecies of the treachery of Judas.—Ps.
xli. 9.—lv. 12, 13, 14, 15.
45. How had the price been already made known, and likewise what
became of it?—Zech. xi. 12, 13.
46. What was to be the end of the traitor?—Ps. cix. 7, 8, 9.
47. What blessed mystery was instituted on the night before the
Passion? 48. How had the joining of different authorities been
foreshown?—Ps. ii. 2.
49. How the testimony against Him?—Ps. xxxv. 11.
50. How the judgment?—Is. liii. 8.
51. How His silence before Pilate?—Is. liii. 7.
52. How the insults of the soldiery?—Is. 1. 6.
53. How the scourging?—-Ps. cxxix, 3.—Is. liii. 5.
54. How the disfigurement?—Is. lii. 14.
55. What was the accusation on which the Jews condemned Him?
56. What that on which Pilate condemned Him?
57. Why was crucifixion the manner of His death?
58. How had it been predicted?—Ps. xxii. 17.—Is. xxv. 11.—Zech.
xii. 10.—xiii. 6.
59. How had the desertion of the disciples been foretold?—Ps.
lxxxviii. IS.—Zech. xiii. 7.
60. How the derision of the Jews?—Ps. xxii. 7, 8.
61. How the parting of the garments?—Ps. xxii. 18.
62. How the sponge of vinegar?—Ps. lxix. 22.
63. What had been the prediction of-the sense of desertion by
God?—Ps. xxii. 1.
64. What of the dying among the wicked and the burial?—Ps.
lxxxviii. 3, 4.—Is. liii. 9.
65. What of the Resurrection?—Ps. xvi. 11.—Is. xxv. 8.
66. What of the effect on us?—Is. xxvi. 19.—Hos. xiii, 14.
67. What of the Ascension?—Ps. lxviii. 18.
LESSON XXI. 1. What was fulfilled by
the one great Sacrifice?
2. What were the ceremonies of the Law?—Heb. x. 1.
3. What was the difference between circumcision and baptism?
4. How had baptism been enjoined?—Mark,xvi. 16.
5. Where had its regenerating power been declared?—John, iii. 5.
6. How had the promise of being cleansed by His blood been held out
in the Old Testament?—Ps. li. 2.—Is. i. 18.—lii. 15.—Joel, iii.
21.—Zech. xiii. 1. 7. How were the faithful invited to constant
partaking of pardoning grace?—Ps. xxxvi. 8, 9.—Is. xii. 3.—xliv.
22.—lv. 1.—Ezek. xlvii. 9.—John, iv. 14.—vii. 37.—See Rev. xxii.
8. How had the Passover come to the true fulfilment?—1 Cor. v. 7.
9. How had the deliverance of the redeemed been foretold?—Is. xxxv.
10. Which day of the week was to be kept in remembrance of their
11. How was the great Sacrifice to be partaken of?
12. How had it been instituted?—Luke, xxii. 19, 20.
13. Where had it been predicted?—Prov. ix. I, 2, 5.—Zech. ix. 17.
14. How was the bringing near in prayer made known? Is. lxv.
24.—Mai. I. 11.—Matt. vi. 9.—xxi. 22.—Mark, xi. 24.—John, xvi. 23,
24, 26, 27.
15. How had the day of Atonement come to fulfilment?—Heb. ix.
24.—Rev. v. 8.
16. How was our Lord revealed as a Shepherd?—Gen. xlix. 24.—Ps.
xxiii.—Is. xl. 11.—Jer. xxxi. 10.—Ez. xxxlv. 23.—xxxvii. 24.—Zech.
xiii. 7.—xi. 7.—Matt, xviii. 12, &c.—John, x. I, &c.
17. How is the Old Testament shown to be only explained in our
Lord?—Is. xxix. 11, 12.—Rev. v. 1-5.
18. What were the believers in the new Covenant to be called?
19. What is the meaning of Church?
20. How many believers met at first?
21. Whom did they choose into the place of Judas?
22. How was he consecrated?
23. What gift was thus bestowed on him?—John, xx. 21, 22, 23.
24. What was the meaning of the name Apostles?
25. What was the second order of the ministry?
26. What festival was taking place?
27. What did the Feast of Weeks commemorate?
28. How was the great work completed?
29. What is the inward work of the Holy Spirit? 30. With what
outward signs was His coming manifested?
31. What was the promise of His coming?—Joel, ii. 28, 29,—-
John, xvi. 7.
32. What were the first-fruits of His coming?
33. What was the occasion of the appointment of the deacons?
34. Who was the first martyr?
35. What was the end of Pilate?
36. Who succeeded Tiberius?
37. What was the history of Herod Agrippa?
38. Who was the great Pharisee convert?
39. How was it made known that the Gospel might be preached to the
40. What had been the promise to Abraham's faith?
41. How had it been foretold that the Gentiles should come in?—
Ps. ii. 8.—xix. 4.—xviii. 43, 44.—xxii.—lxviii. 11.—lxxii.
17.—xlix. 6.—Is. lii. 7-10-15.—liv. 1._lvi. 6, 7.—lix. 19.—
Matt. xxiv. 14.—Luke, i. 79.—John, x. 16.
42. Who was the first Gentile convert?
43. Which Apostle was first martyred, and by whom?
44. What was the end of Herod Agrippa?
45. What were the different missions of the Apostles?
46. What is the tradition about the Creed?
47. What are the texts thought to be allusions to the Creed?—
Luke,i. 4.—1 Tim. vi. 20.—2 Tim. i. 13.
48. Why was not the Creed commonly rehearsed?
49. Which was the first of the Gospels?
50. What was the difference between the treatment which the Apostles
received from the Jews and Romans?
51. To whom did they always go first?
52. What advantages did they derive from the Roman power?
53 What was going on in Britain?
54. Who was Roman Emperor?
55. How had the persecutions been predicted?—Matt. xxiv. 9.
LESSON XXII. 1. How had St. Paul
first been converted?
2. How did he spend his time after his conversion?
3. How bad education fitted him to be an apostle to the Gentiles?
4. How was he introduced to the apostles?
5. What was his first mission?
6. What name was first given at Antioch?
7. How were SS. Paul and Barnabas first set apart?
8. What was their first journey?
9. Who was their companion?
10. What was the occasion of the first Council of the Church?
11. Why must the decisions of a truly general council be
right?—Matt, xviii. 20.
12. What was the decision of the first Council? Antioch?
13. What question arose between SS. Paul and Peter at
14. How did St. Paul differ with St. Barnabas?
15. What was the further history of St. Barnabas?
16. Who were the companions of St. Paul's second journey?
17. How far did his second journey extend?
18. What argument did he hold at Athens?
19. Who were the Athenian philosophers?
20. What were written at Corinth?
21. Which Gospel is said to have been here written?
22. When did St. Paul's third journey begin?
23. What was his first station?
24. What was the cause of the tumult at Ephesus?
25. Which Epistles were written in his third journey?
26. How far did his third journey extend?
27. What caused his return to Jerusalem?
28. What were his troubles at Jerusalem?
29. How was he rescued from violence both of Jews and Romans?
30. Before what tribunals was he brought? 31. Why could he not be
set at liberty?
32. What were the events of his voyage to Rome?
33. How did he live at Rome?
34. What are the Epistles of his captivity?
35. To what bishops did he write instructions?
36. What apostle ruled the Church at Rome?
37. What are the writings of St. Peter?
38. Which Gospel was superintended by St. Peter?
39. What became of St. James the Less?
40. Which was the first persecution?
41. Which is St. Paul's last Epistle?
42. How did St. Paul and St. Peter die?
43. How had the manner of St. Peter's death been foretold?—John,
xxi. 18, 19.
44. What Church was founded by St. Mark?
45. What was the death of St. Mark?
LESSON XXIII. 1. How had the
apostles been martyred?
2. What Church was left in Ethiopia?
3. What Church was left by St. Thomas?
4. Which apostles left writings?
5. Who alone survived to hear of the destruction of Jerusalem?
6. How had this been foretold?—John, xxi. 22.
7. How did the Jews bring punishment on themselves?
8. How did they misread the prophecies?
9. How had our Lord predicted their self-deception?—Matt. xxiv.
10. What Roman was sent against them P
11. How was he called off?
12. What warning was thus given?—Luke, xxi. 20, 21.
13. How did the Christians profit by the warning?
14. How were our Lord's predictions of fearful sights and signs from
15. Why was the city more than usually filled?
16. Who was the Roman general?
17. In what year did Titus besiege Jerusalem? 18. How had the Jews
called down vengeance on themselves?
19. How had our Lord mourned for them?—Luke, xiii. 34.—xix, 41.
20. How had St. Paul mourned for them?—Rom. ix. 2,3.
21. How had the manner of the siege been predicted?—Deut. xxviii.
22. How had the dreadful famine been foretold?—Luke, xix. 43.
23. What was the state of the city?—Deut. xxviii. 53-56.—Lam. ii.
24. How was the entrance effected into the Temple?
25. What had been the intention of Titus with regard to the Temple?
26. Why could not the Temple be saved?
27. What condition was the city found to be in?
28. What prophecy was fulfilled?—Matt. xxiv. 2.
29. What became of the treasures of the Temple?
30. What became of the Jews?
31. How had their dispersion been predicted?—Deut. xxviii.
64-68.—Ps. lix. 11.
32. How have they lived ever since?
33. What warning does St. Paul give the Gentiles?—Rom. xi. 18.
34. Why were the Jews so utterly rejected?
35. Who were accepted in their stead?
36. How had the acceptance of the sons of Japhet been
foretold?—Gen. ix. 27.
LESSON XXIV. 1. What were the events
of Domitian's persecution?
2. How was St. John a martyr in will?
3. What was revealed to St. John in a vision?
4. Where was the latter part of St. John's life spent?
5. What were the instances of St. John's love?
6. What are the writings of St. John?
7. In what year did he die?
8. What were the habits of the early Christians?
9. How did they meet for worship? 10. What was their practice on the
11. How did they arrange themselves at their assemblies?
12. How did the heathen try to find out what they did?
13. Why did Trajan dislike them so much?
14. What had befallen the old Roman temper?—Dan. ii. 41.
15. Who was the great martyr of Trajan's persecution?
16. What is told us of St. Ignatius as a child?
17. What is a Father of the Church?
18. How was St. Ignatius put to death?
19. What did he say of himself?
20. Who was St. John's other pupil?
21. What had been said to St. Polycarp in the Revelation?—Rev. ii.
22. In what persecution did St. Polycarp suffer?
23. What did he say of himself at the tribunal?
24. What was his last thanksgiving?
25. What was the manner of his death?
26. What was the story of the Thundering Legion?
LESSON XXV. 1. How had our Lord
forewarned His followers of their sufferings?—Matt. x. 16,
17.—John, xvi. 2.
2. How had they been told to meet their afflictions?—Matt.
v. 12.—1 Peter, iii. 14.
3. What had He said of confessing or denying Him?—Matt. x.
4. What had been promised through St. John to such as overcame?—
Rev. ii. 17.—iii. 5 and 21.
5. How had the lot of the martyrs been shown to St. John?—Rev. vii. 14-17.
6. How many periods of persecution had been predicted?—Rev.
7. Name the ten chief persecutors.
8. How is Severus memorable in Britain?
9. Who were the martyrs of Carthage?
10. Who were the chief martyrs of the persecution of Valerian?
11. What were St. Lawrence's treasures? 12. Why did Sapricius fail?
13. What became of Valerian?
14. Whose was the fiercest persecution?
15. How did the Theban legion witness their confession?
16. In what manner were Christians brought to trial?
17. Mention some of the martyrs of the Diocletian persecution.
18. Who was the British martyr?
19. Who shielded the Britons?
20. How was the Empire divided?
21. What was the difference between a martyr and a confessor?
22. What was the remarkable end of Galerius?
LESSON XXVI. 1. Who was the first
2. How was Constantine converted?
3. Tell me a few of the promises that Gentile sovereigns should obey
the Church?—Ps. lxxii. 11.—Is. xlix. 23.—lx. 4.—lxvi.
12.—Rev. xi. 15.
4. What was the date of Constantine's conversion?
5. What was Helena's expedition to Jerusalem?
6. How did she do honour to the holy places?
7. What did Jerusalem thenceforth become?
8. What prophecy thus had a partial and material fulfilment?—Is
lx. 10.—lxvi. 20.
9. How did Constantine change the capital of his empire?
10. To whom was his chief church dedicated?
11. Who were the patriarchs of the Church?
12. What name was given to the patriarch of Rome?
13. What were those called who retired from the world?
14. What is a heresy?
15. How had our Lord foretold that heresies would arise?—Matt. xviii. 7.
16. What warnings had He given against them?—Matt. vii. 15.
17. What warning had the apostles given?—Acts, xx. 29,
30.—1 Tim. iv. 1.—Titus, iii. 10.—2 Peter, ii.
1, 2. 18. What had St. John given as the test of the truth?—1 John, iv. 15.
19. What was the heresy of Arius?
20. What council was held against it?
21. Who was the great champion of the truth?
22. What creed was drawn up at Nicea?
23. How many bishops signed the Nicene Creed?
24. How was Arius punished?
25. Into what error did Constantine fall?
26. How was the Church spared from communion with Arius?
27. In obedience to what commands were obstinate sinners cut off
from the Church?—Matt. xviii. 17. 1 Cor. v. 4, 5.—
Titus, iii. 10, 11.
28. When was Constantine baptized?
29. How was the Church tried under Constantius?
30. How was it tried under Julian?
31. What profane attempt did Julian make?
32. How was it frustrated?
33. What is the meaning of Catholic?
34. What great confession of Catholic truth was drawn up at this
LESSON XXVII. 1. Who were the two
brothers who reigned together?
2. What evil habit prevailed in their days?
3. What was the great work of St. Jerome?
4. Into what tongue did he translate the Bible?
5. What was the bishopric of St. Ambrose?
6. How was he chosen?
7. How did St. Ambrose resist the Empress Justina?
8. Why did he hold out against her?
9. Who was the Catholic Emperor?
10. What fresh heresy had arisen?
11. What fresh confession of faith was made at the Council of
12. What was the sedition of Antioch?
13. Who preached repentance at Antioch?
14. How were the men of Antioch relieved? 15. What offence was given
16. How did Theodosius punish the murder?
17. How was he brought to a sense of his cruelty?
18. How did he humiliate himself?
19. What prophecy was literally accomplished in his reign?—Is. lx.
20. How soon did St. Ambrose reconcile Theodosius to the Church?
21. What Father of the Church was converted at this time?
22. What writings did St. Augustine leave?
23. What hymns are ascribed to St. Ambrose?
24. Who finished the conversion of the Gauls?
25. How was St. Chrysostom promoted?
26. How was he persecuted?
27. What prayer is known by his name?
LESSON XXVIII. 1. How had the Roman
2. Of what were the feet of Nebuchadnezzar's statue made?
3. What nations had attacked the Romans?
4. What was the faith of the Teutons?
5. Under what form did they first learn Christianity?
6. Who ruled the Roman empire?
7. What portion first was lost to Rome?
8. Who conquered Britain?
9. How was Ireland converted?
10. What prophecies were there that these distant places should be
won to the faith?—Is. xlix. 1.—lxvi. 19.
11. What great act of self-sacrifice marked the last Triumph?
12. Who conquered Rome?
13. How did Alaric treat Rome?
14. Who was the first Christian King of France?
15. How was Spain brought to the Catholic faith?
16. What led to the conversion of the English?
17. Who was the first missionary to the Saxons?
18. Who sent St. Augustin? 19. Who was the first Christian Saxon
20. What devotions were arranged by St. Gregory?
21. What did he do for Church music?
22. What was the work of St. Benedict?
23. What were the habits of the monks and nuns?
LESSON XXIX. 1. What evils prevailed
in the East?
2. What heresies were there taught?
3. What threat had been made in the Revelation?—Rev. ii. 5.
4. What alarm befell the East?
5. How was the true Cross recovered?
6. What false religion sprang up?
7. Who was Mahomet?
8. What was his false prophecy called?
9. What were the requirements and promises of the Koran?
10. In what year was the flight of Mahomet?
11. How did he spread his religion?
12. Where did he die?
13. How do the Mahometans honour Mecca?
14. What was the chief Arabian tribe called?
15. How did they treat Jerusalem?
16. What did they build there?
17. What did they do with the library at Alexandria?
18. How far did they extend their conquests?
19. Where were they brought to a stop?
20. Who turned them back?
21. Are there any sayings in the New Testament that can be applied
to such a falling away as the Mahometan heresy?—2 Tim. iii.
13.—Rev. ix. 2 to 11. (supposed.)
LESSON XXX. 1. What was the danger
of the Western Church?
2. Why were the people so ignorant?
3. What respect did they pay to religion?
4. What errors began to prevail?
5. What Greek emperor tried to prevent image worship?
6. What different decisions were arrived at in the east and west?
7. Who was the great western emperor?
8. What power did Charles le Magne give the Pope?
9. What miseries came upon the west?
10. Who was the great and good English King?
11. How were the Northmen converted?
12. What harm did Charles le Magne's grant do at Rome?
13. What difference of opinion was there between east and west?
14. Why did the Greeks object to the new words in the Creed of
15. What claim had the Popes set up?
16. Who resisted their claim?
17. How was the rent made between the Greek and Latin Churches?
18. In what year did the schism begin?
19. How is the Church still one inwardly?
20. What rule did the Roman Church make about the clergy?
21. What error did she make in the celebration of the Holy
LESSON XXXI. 1. How many horns had
sprung up in Daniel's vision of the Roman power?
2. What do these horns signify?
3. How had our Lord shown how Christianity should work through the
nations?—Matt. xiii. 33.
4. But how had Solomon shown that too few would really honour the
Lord?—Eccles. iv, 15, 16.
5. In what were the people too prone to trust?
6. Why was it wrong to trust in the intercessions of the Blessed
Virgin?—1 Tim. ii. 5.
7. Who had the chief power in the Western Churches? 8. What was the
old way of choosing a bishop?
9. How did the Romans prove that they could not be trusted with the
10. Who took the choice of the Pope for a time?
11. Who took the choice of the Pope from the German Emperor?
12. How has the Pope been ever since elected?
13. In what manner did the western Church regard the Pope?
14. What rule did the Pope bear?
15. How did he punish disobedience?
16. How was the power of the Popes misused?
17. What saints lived about that time?
18. What good works were done?
19. What were built at this time?
20. Why are churches turned to the east?
21. Why does the font stand near the entrance?
22. Why are the people allowed to come into the chancel, not kept
out like the Israelites?
23. What prophecy is fulfilled by constant services?—Ps.
lxxii. 15.—Is. lx. 11.
24. What is partly fulfilled by the peace impressed around the
Church, even upon fierce warriors?—Is. xi. 6-9.
25. What vows were knights made to take?
26. What wars were preached in the Middle Ages?
27. What reward did the Pope hold out?
28. What was meant by purgatory?
29. What was meant by an indulgence?
30. What success did the crusaders meet with?
31. How long was Jerusalem in the hands of the Christians?
32. How was the schism increased between the Greek and Roman
33. Who were the chief crusaders?
34. Why could not the Holy Land be kept?
35. What race of Mahometans came from the east?
36. What country did the Turks conquer?
37. What prophecy was fulfilled at Tyre?—Ezek. xxvi. 14.
38. What country was won back by the Christiana?
LESSON XXXII. 1. How had the
Services of the Church come to be in an unknown tongue?
2. What deceit was practised upon the people?
3. How were those who found fault punished?
4. How was it that there was less ignorance than formerly?
5. Who began to preach against indulgences?
6. What translation did Luther make?
7. How did England separate from the Pope?
8. What became of the English monasteries?
9. Why did the Italian clergy hinder inquiry?
10. What were Luther's party called, and why?
11. Who was the Swiss reformer?
12. Who tried to obtain a General Council?
13. Where was the meeting held?
14. Why was it not a true Council?
15. How was the English Church purified?
16. In what reign was the Prayer Book translated?
17. After what pattern were the Services moulded?
18. What danger did the English Church undergo?
19. Who were the martyrs of the English Reformation?
20. How did it again become prosperous?
21. How did the Council of Trent end?
22. What decision did the foreign Reformers come to as to their
23. How did the Roman Catholics treat them?
24. What Churches have Bishops?
25. How are such Churches still one?
26. What countries are Roman Catholic?
27. Which are Lutheran?
28. Which are Calvinist?
29. Which are Greek Catholic?
LESSON XXXIII. 1. Who discovered
2. Who were the first inhabitants of America?
3. Why did the Pope think he had a right over them? 4. To whom did
he give them?
5. How did the Spaniards use the Indians?
6. Who tried to prevent their cruelty?
7. What people were brought to the West Indies to work for the
8. What prophecy was thus fulfilled?—Gen. ix. 27.
9. What work did the Jesuits do in South America?
10. What harm did the Jesuits do at home?
11. What bad spirit rose up in Europe?
12. What prophecies were there that the Church should stretch out
far?—Isaiah, liv. 2, 3.
13. Which part of America was settled by the Spaniards?
14. Which by the English and Dutch?
15. Who caused our present translation of the Bible to be made?
16. What did Charles I. try to do for Scotland?
17. How was he treated in England?
18. How was the Church persecuted?
19. How did St. Paul speak of such times?—2 Tim. iv. 3
20. How long did these evil times last?
21. How was the Church in England restored?
22. Why are Calvinists called Presbyterians?
23. What evils were prevailing in the colonies?
24. How were they neglected?
25. What was the great sin of France?
26. What was the consequence of French unbelief?
LESSON XXXIV. 1. What schism arose
2. How has St. Paul warned us against separations?—Romans,
3. Why is it dangerous to follow any unordained minister?—St.
John, x. I.
4. How has our Lord taught us to cling to His Church?—St. John, xv. 4.
5. How can we be sure that ours is a true branch of the Church?— A.
Because our Bishops come straight from the Apostles, and our faith and
our Sacraments are the same as theirs, and agree with Holy Scripture.