The Second Period of the Church's History Commenced About A.D. 167

 •  1 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The reign of Aurelius is marked, under the providence of God, by many and great public calamities. We see the hand of the Lord in faithful love chastening His own redeemed and beloved people, but His anger was kindled against their enemies. The eastern army, under Verus, returning from the Parthian war, brought with it to Rome the infliction of a pestilential disease which was then raging in Asia, and which soon spread its ravages through almost the whole of the Roman empire. There was also a great inundation of the Tiber, which laid a large part of the city under water, and swept away immense quantities of grain from the fields and public storehouses. These disasters were naturally followed by a famine, which consumed great numbers.
Such events could not fail to increase the hostility of the heathen against the Christians. They ascribed all their troubles to the wrath of the gods, which the new religion was supposed to have provoked. Thus it was that the persecution of the Christians in the Roman empire began with the populace. The outcry against them rose up from the people to the governors. "Throw the Christians to the lions!" "Throw the Christians to the lions!" was the general outcry: and the names of the most prominent in the community were demanded with the same uncontrollable hostility. A weak or superstitious magistrate would tremble before the voice of the people, and lend himself as the instrument of their will.
But we will now take a nearer view, under the guidance of the various histories that are before us, of the manner of these persecutions, and of the behavior of the Christians under them.