“The Daily”


The Testimony of History

Inasmuch as the position that paganism, the official religion of ancient Rome, was taken away before 508 is thus denied, it is proper that we should submit a few brief extracts from history bearing upon this question. The subject of chapter 28 of Gibbon’s “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” reads thus: “Final Destruction of Paganism-Introduction of the Worship of Saints and Relics Among Christians.” The time covered by this chapter as given in the table of contents is. a. d. 379-420, and the time covered under the heading “Destruction of the Pagan Religion” is 378-395. The first statement of this chapter is as follows:- THD 13.2

The ruin of paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind. THD 13.3

From another work we take the following interesting and decisive quotation:- THD 14.1

Among the most interesting historic memories associated with the Curia of the imperial period, is a transaction which marks a stage in the struggle between heathenism and Christianity at the national capital, where the results of the contest were so momentous. I have mentioned the altar and image of Victory in the vestibule of the Senate House, sacred to Minerva, before which image every senator had to throw incense on that altar as he passed into the hall of assemblage-an act of political rather than religious significance, but utterly inexcusable in the eyes of the primitive Christians. Altar and image acquired the character of a symbol and standard in the great conflict of principles carried on during the fourth century. The first emperor who removed both from their place in the Curia, about a. d. 357, was Constantius, the second son of Constantine, and sole ruler of the Roman world after the deaths of his two brothers. Both objects were replaced by Julian, his successor, probably in the first year, a. d. 360, of his short reign. Altar and image were again removed, in, or soon after, the year 382, by Theodosius, who was, in fact, through his stringent laws and more decided measures against the old superstition, the actual destroyer of pagan worship and suppressor of its priesthood.... Eugenius, a usurper proclaimed emperor by a military faction in Gaul a. d. 372, ordered the altar and image to be replaced during his short sojourn, after his irregular election, at Rome. His feeble effort to revive the ancient superstition was soon crushed by Theodosius, who defeated him in battle (a. d. 304) and sentenced him to death. Again, and for the last time, were the objectionable relics of heathenism set aside-the incense-cloud no more ascended to the Divine Victoria in Rome’s Senate House.-“Historic and Monumental Rome.” Charles Isidore Hemans, pages 244, 245. Published by Williams and Norgate, London, 1874. THD 14.2

In Milman’s “History of Christianity,” standard edition, Armstrong & Son, New York, the following quotation is found. The title of chapter 8, book 3, page 63, is “Theodosius. Abolition of Paganism.” The date given is the date printed in the margin of the text. Note the following important statements:- THD 14.3

a. d. 392. While this reaction was taking place in the West, perhaps irritated by the intelligence of this formidable conspiracy of paganism, with the usurpation of the throne [by Eugenius], Theodosius published in the East the last and most peremptory of those edicts which, gradually rising in the sternness of their language, proclaimed the ancient worship a treasonable and capital crime. In its minute and searching phrases, this statute seemed eagerly to pursue paganism to its most secret and private lurking-places. Thenceforth no man of any station, rank, or dignity, in any place in any city, was to offer an innocent victim in sacrifice; the more harmless worship of the household gods, which lingered, probably, more deeply in the hearts of the pagans than any other part of their system, was equally forbidden,-not merely the smoke of victims, but even lamps, incense, and garlands. To sacrifice, or to consult the entrails of victims, was constituted high treason, and thereby a capital offense, although with no treasonable intention of calculating the days of the emperor. THD 15.1

An indefinite number of quotations, all to the same effect, could easily be supplied if space permitted. Historians are unanimous in their testimony concerning this matter. We, therefore, unhesitatingly affirm that the forced and unnatural interpretation of the spirit of prophecy which attempts to make it teach that paganism was taken away in 508 brings it into direct conflict with the uniform testimony of historians, and that such dealing with the spirit of prophecy, instead of establishing confidence in it, will bring it into discredit, and will confuse the minds of the people concerning its authority. THD 15.2