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The Higher Liberty

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The Higher Liberty

by Gregory HHC, d
Minister of His Holy Church

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The Natural Error

The temptations of Jesus are the temptation of every man who is tempted to rule over others for his own profit or to bow down to the will of others for his own gain. But we should also not act arrogantly, slothfully, or foolishly in a way that will tempt God.

Stoicism had been founded in the 3rd century BC. The Stoics, like the fictional Spock from Vulcan, considered emotions destructive to logical and good judgment. They also sought “moral and intellectual perfection.” Stoics were concerned with human freedom in accord with nature. The conflict often arose in the debate over what was natural and moral, which led to the persecution of Christians by stoic emperors like Marcus Aurelius.

Some men have the misconceived notion that it is natural and moral to rule over other men. They imagine it moral to impose their theory of moral perfection, their will, on others. Marcus Aurelius, the stoic president of the Empire, led what historians have called the Golden Age of Rome.

“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”106

Emperor Antoninus Pius and his successor Marcus Aurelius were considered the more benevolent reigning Emperors of Rome. Apologist Justin the Martyr wrote Antoninus explaining the virtues and polity of Christians as a self-governing people. Although several Emperors had chosen to leave the Christians alone, and Marcus had been tutored by Antoninus, he was never able to trust Christians, and had one of the worst records of their official persecution.

Celsus, a Platonist, writing during the term of Marcus Aurelius, “opposed the ‘sectarian’ tendencies at work in the Christian movement because he saw in Christianity a ‘privatizing’ of religion, the transferal of religious values from the public sphere to a private association.”107 Like the modern Church, Celsus chose to place the responsibility and obligations of religion on men who call themselves benefactors but exercise authority one over the other. This is not what the Bible calls pure religion.

Vigellius Saturninus, proconsul of Africa in 180 CE, addressed the seeming antisocial behavior of the Scillitan martyrs with the statement, “We too are religious, and our religion is simple, and we swear by the Genius of our lord the emperor, and we apply for his benefits, as you also ought to do.” The true Christians like Speratus would not apply to that Emperor for their daily bread and social security, but claimed Christ as “Lord, the King of kings” and ruler of all nations. As a Christian, he relied upon the Genius of God the Father working through the freewill offerings given in congregations of the Church by faith, hope, and charity.

“Augustus [the first Emperor] was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom.”108 Claiming to desire freedom, he edged inexorably toward tyranny.

Social welfare reform and duty were noble ideas, but what was Marcus Aurelius’ error? Why did he persecute Christians? Religion was part of the conflict, but how? Was that conflict “governed by names” or by the precepts of “pure religion”?

Marcus believed that it was natural for the government to compel the contributions of the people to provide for the welfare of society. Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus did not. Marcus Aurelius knew the natural law required the consent of the people at one point or another. The Bible tells us to consent not.

Like most governments today he called himself a benefactor but exercised authority in the collection of contributions of the people. Unlike Christ he did not believe in the individual right to choose. Christ preached another form of government.

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” Marcus Aurelius

If you wish to conquer a people, addict their hearts to the love of benefits and their minds to vain knowledge, then they will fight to maintain their slavery and crucify any who might set them free.

 

 

 

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Return to the Table of Contents, Alphabetical Index or purchase the book The Higher Liberty

Related Articles and Audio:

  • Romans 13 part 1
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/media/audio/rm/Romans131.ram
  • ROMANS 13 verse 1 the higher liberty
    Does God want us to be subject or to be free?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/sermon/romans13.php

    Romans 13 and I Peter 2,13-14
    Is the Bible consistent about setting men free or does it contradict itself?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/sermon/romanspeter.php

    Romans 13, NN Video Series:7-10 4:32
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SEMYx6affo

    Footnotes:

     

    106Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of the Roman Empire

    107Christians as the Romans Saw Them, by Robert Wilken page 125

    108Chapter 3, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon.

     

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