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Tags: Ancient Rome, Gibbons, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Golden Age, Caesar, Nero, Titus, Domitian, destruction of the temple, Roman baths, The Pantheon, Hadrian, Senate, Western Europe, Babylon the Great, Robert Bork, President Reagan, Supreme Court Justice, Slouching Toward Gomorrah,  Snoop Doggy Dogg, Horny, Mona Charen, President Clinton, Brave New World, Nebuchadnezzar, Marcus Aurelius, Coliseum, Vespian, National Endowment for the Arts, Commodus, Roman empire, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonines, Pliny, Bithynia, Asia Minor, Dio Cassius, taxes, big government, Septimius, barbarians, Spain, Gaul

The Golden Age

Vespasian emerged from the years of confusion that followed Nero's death to rule with a more stalwart hand than any before him. Slowly, he began to curtail the powers of the Senate even more, as the Romans saw their freedoms slowly fading away. Coming in after him was the autocrat Titus (79-81) who showed his contempt for God by destroying the Jewish temple. Then came Domitian who stepped up the autocratic spirit even more, only to be assassinated on September 18, 96 AD. He was the last of 12 Caesar's who ruled Rome during this tumultuous period. It was a time when personal liberty was abased. Indeed, Christ had proclaimed that the truth would set men free.(Jn 8:32) The Romans had adopted a lie and personal freedom was the victim.

The Senate attempted at that point to get things back under their control. The previous emperors had been elected by the soldiers through civil war. Now the Senate asserted itself to nominate a brief set of emperors. But democracy was not in the cards for the future of Rome. She had an imperial calling that would see the likes of and iron hand crushing any who would oppose her. She would be ruler of the world under the firm grasp of Caesar.

Rome had entered into the Golden Age of empire. So engrossed in material comforts were these people that they fell into a stupor of contentment. This consumption of wealth completely drugged any impulse that might challenge imperial censorship or authoritarian rule.

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth -- to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If any one worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Rev 14:6-11 niv)

In 1996 Judge Robert Bork, President Reagan's choice for Supreme Court Justice who was turned away by a liberal Congress, drafted the book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah to detail the extent to which America had turned away from the Christian roots that made her great. While devoting 343 pages to the subject, Judge Bork detailed that America would be far better off if she turned back the clock rather than press ahead to the uncertain liberal future. He talked of the various sources that were eroding the foundation of American society, including radical egalitarianism, radical individualism, feminism, the decline of respect for intellect, the erosion of standards, "multiculturalism," judicial usurpation of democratic powers and the anemia of mainline churches.

In his book, Bork demonstrated how popular culture had eroded the American mainframe. In the book's chapter on the "collapse" of popular culture he demonstrated the change in lyrical content in popular music.

An example of popular music from the 1930's read:

Oh, but you're lovely,

With your smile so warm. . .

There's nothing for me but to love you,

Just the way you look tonight.

Bork compared this with the 1990'2 Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Horny":

I called you up for sexual healing.

I'm callin' again so let me come get it.

Bring the lotion so I can rub you.

Assume the position so I can f--- you.

Bork concluded, "It's not just the racism and violence of hate rock, the violently obscene and brutal lyrics of rap music and the obscenities and wild violence of motion pictures." Indeed, this profusion of smut included the Internet as well.

Columnist Mona Charen noted that when one progresses to the future, he must be careful not to disengage himself from the past. Noting that the '60s revolution, that was the first American leap from her Christian past, Charen wrote on December 30, 1996, "History is not the march of progress, as the past generation had amply demonstrated. As the new century nears, our challenge will be to rediscover that there are values higher than untrammeled personal freedom."

Rome marched ahead towards a Golden Age while ignoring the values that made it all possible. The march was on a road that eventually leads to her oblivion. The proposals of President Clinton, to sneer at the past in order to enter into a Brave New World, were exactly the equivalent of the call that incited ancient Romans to do the same. And did America really believe she could dodge the inevitable Roman fate?

As we in America come to the realization that we are the wealthiest people to have ever lived on the face of this planet, we would do well to look carefully at the example of Rome. The wealthy came to a point of desiring only one thing: peace and prosperity. They sacrificed everything to attain these objectives. And they gave up even their precious freedoms.

Rome itself, through the efforts of the Caesars, was turned into a literal showcase of architecture that became the model and envy of the entire empire. By the end of the second century Rome yielded in splendor to no city in the fabled east. So renown was the fame of this city, that municipalities all over the empire transformed their cities into little Romes.

The famous and magnificent Roman baths could accommodate 3,000 bathers at once. The Pantheon, built by Hadrian, was an architectural marvel. It was also a place of worship to their false deities. It stood as a proud reminder of the humanism that had captivated the people of Rome. It was a defiant symbol of the fact that Caesar had rejected the words of the Apostle. Apart from God, Rome had set its course to pursue wealth and power.

Roman military roads fanned out in every direction in the empire. The volume of goods distributed in Western Europe reached a level that it never reached in the next 1,000 years. Upon the roads thundered the might of a military that kept the empire in perfect peace for hundreds of years until the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Rome had found her fortune in her own might. She had discovered the peace she sought for.

The city of Rome housed the stalwart Coliseum that held 75,000 people. One hundred days of games was declared by the emperor Vespian to celebrate the opening of the mighty colossus, as wild beasts and gladiators made a bloody spectacle to entertain the crowds. It was here that the martyrs of Christ made their faith public, by laying down their lives for the amusement of their fellow man.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to Him to call His attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things," He asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another: everyone will be thrown down." (Matt 24:1-2 niv)

Glorification of their conquests was the predominant Roman theme. The arch of Titus was set to memorialize his triumph over the Jews and the destruction of the temple. It tells of the story of his marvelous victory as he took the booty: the sacred trumpets and the seven-branched candelabrum. Titus looms large, as an invincible conqueror, a god crowned with victory.

But as we imagine the scene in which Titus destroyed the temple and dispersed the Jews, we are reminded of the earlier kingdom of Babylon that had flushed the Jewish nation out of their homeland. As we remember the work of their king, Nebuchadnezzar, we are caught in awe as we realize that Rome was indeed the Babylon of their own time. And when we see the defilement of everything that is Godly in our own culture we come to a greater understanding of Rome's presence in us. As we see the personage of Jesus placed in a bottle of urine in the name of art (a project sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts which is subsidized by the American taxpayer) we come to grips with the reality that we too have desecrated the temple of God. Yes, those who will not receive the message of truth are certain to profane that which is holy and righteous.

To demonstrate how this perverted association of artists displays the sickness in today's apostate church, Jane Alexander, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts proclaimed in defense of her organization, "We're part of a very large discussion that's going on among certain forces in America -- political, philosophical and cultural. So I never doubted that we would be under fire. But I was surprised by the intensity of that attack, the distortions and false accusations, the questioning of the endowment's commitment to American values, the questioning of even my own deeply held Christian values. I resent it, I resent it terribly, because I grew up a Christian and I'm very spiritual, very religious."

And how did this President Clinton appointee demonstrate her spirituality? This was found in her description of the art she supported: "Art can be very disturbing to people. But art is liberating. It allows people to experience their humanity in a way nothing else can. I don't think there's anything that's human which is alien to an artist, even if it sometimes offends or even frightens us." Offense to God has become a common American theme.

On July 13, 1995, the House Republican leaders agreed to cut off federal funding for the National Endowment for the arts within two years. This decision was put into practice on July 18 when the legislative body passed a spending bill that was slated to reduce federal financing of the organization by 40 percent in 1996. The measure also affirmed the two-year deadline for a complete cutoff. This affirmed the convictions of US citizens on the issue.

 

At the Top of Rome’s Game

Now we are introduced to Golden Rome. It was the era of Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, "If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that time which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. . .The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the Republic had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom."

But the Romans were too preoccupied with luxury and comfort to worry about freedom. In spite of a history that had unveiled the likes of Nero, they could be certain in the succession of one gracious monarch after another, they had made the correct choice in looking to an earthly king to resolve their problems and bring them peace.

"The two Antonines (for it is of them that we are now speaking) governed the Roman world forty-two years, with the same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue," Gibbons wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ". . . Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government."

So the Antonine emperors, who were known for their ability to maintain humane government, the recognition of the rights of provinces, and the enlargement of the ideas of universalism, became the people's gods. It didn't seem to Romans that turning their backs on Jesus had any particular negative ramifications on their society. In fact, their Caesars established the most dominant empire that the world had ever known.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! It's rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (Rev 6:1-2 niv)

But even in the magnificent reign of these Caesars, there were cracks beginning to form in the Roman frame. Indeed, during this time under Trajan, the empire continued to expand. But eventually blockades were established along the boarders. This became a testimony that the empire could no longer expand.

Yet the people had chosen a god in the personage of their Caesar. That the Caesars began to envision their own immortality can be read in the words of a servant of Trajan. The king had sent out a man named Pliny to deal with the problems that beset the provinces. It was a period when Christians were being persecuted for their beliefs, and Pliny was to be the administrator of justice to the rebellious. As he arrived at Bithynia in Asia Minor to carry out the royal decrees he wrote to Trajan, "For it well becomes you, whose every word and action deserves immortality, to give laws that shall forever be permanent."

Acknowledgments such as this, coming from the patrons of Caesar, attributed to this earthy king the attributes of God himself. But could Caesar render to society anything that would have permanent value? Could he really institute laws that would be perpetual for all time? Was the Roman monarch the god that the populace proposed that he really was?

Hadrian was the Caesar who established Rome's civil service as a full-blown bureaucracy in Rome. Likewise, during the era of these powerful and influential kings, the authority of rulership became centralized. The prized democratic institution of the Senate became no more than a tool in the emperor's hand.

It was also during the reign of Hadrian that a policy of retreat began. Rome had now degenerated from the role of the world's aggressor to the empire's defender. The barbarians were steadily pressing on the distant boarders. So, by the time of Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was at constant war to protect itself.

Gibbons wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, "Antoninus diffused order and tranquility over the greatest part of the earth. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing very few materials for history; which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind."

So, during the early years of the Antonine emperors, the general persecution of Christians abated for a season. It was a period that enabled the Church to grow in strength and organization, to prepare it for the intense struggle ahead. It was a time when Rome prospered.

 

A Crack in the Armor

"The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was of a severer and more laborious kind," Gibbons wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, "It was the well-earned harvest of many a learned conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a midnight lucubration. At the age of twelve years, he embraced the rigid system of the Stoics, which taught him to submit his body to his mind, his passions to his reason; to consider virtue as the only good, vice as the only evil, all things external as things indifferent."

Marcus Aurelius is considered to be one of Rome’s finer Caesars. But it was Marcus Aurelius who reinstated the persecution of Christians. This was a state of affairs that lasted until the reign of Constantine. So, does it surprise you that it was also during the reign of Marcus Aurelius that the Rome began to crumble under the weight of barbarian invasions? Is it so astonishing that the one who reinstated Christian persecution also witnessed the beginning of the decay of his empire?

The signs of weakness and decay were beginning to emerge. Dio Cassius, who was a historian of the third century, considered the death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of his son Commodus as the beginning of the end for Rome. "Our history," he stated, "now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust."

According to Gibbons in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power is of the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, the laws of society lose their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity. The ardor of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success, the memory of past injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all contribute to inflame the mind, and to silence the voice of pity. From such motives almost every page of history has been stained with civil blood; but these motives will not account for the unprovoked cruelties of Commodus, who had nothing to wish and every thing to enjoy."

Commodus was a prime example of the Roman deification of emperors. He was a virtual re-enactment of Nero. His sexual immorality new no end, as he caroused with mistresses and "pretty boys." The Eastern gods were worshipped in the court circles but worship was not enough for him. He wanted to be one of them, so in defiance to the Holy Trinity of God, he proposed his own. The new trinity that he proclaimed included the Eastern gods of Isis, Serapis, and himself.

Gibbons wrote, "The manly pride of the Romans, content with substantial power, had left to the vanity of the East the forms and ceremonies of ostentatious greatness. But when they lost even the semblance of those virtues which were derived from their ancient freedom, the simplicity of Roman manners was insensibly corrupted by the stately affectation of the courts of Asia. The distinctions of personal merit and influence, so conspicuous in a republic, so feeble and obscure under a monarchy, were abolished by the despotism of the emperors; who substituted in their room a severe subordination of rank and office, from the titled slaves who were seated on the steps of the throne, to the meanest instruments of arbitrary power."

The mad ruler made great headway in bringing the pagan beliefs of the East into Rome leading the populace to further apostasy as a result. But he paid dearly for his sacrilege and rebellion and his athletic trainer strangled him in a bath in 192 AD. His terrible reign marked the end of the "Golden Age" that was so carefully planned out by Augustus. It marked the beginning of the empire's collapse, to demonstrate to all mankind what happens to a people who profane the name of the Lord and refuse to heed the warnings from His word. It was time for God to judge the seditious and defiant legacy of Rome. It was time for the kingdom to receive the reward of disobedience.

Slowly the inadequacies of Roman life began to devour their kingdom. While the working class continued to be denied the benefits of wealth, the institution of slavery continued to drive down the wages. There were no new conquests. Their borders were established. There was nobody left to loot in order to support an economic system that never got adequate attention.

The border raids of the barbarians, which began rather sporadically under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, eventually became a permanent state of invasion. It became so pronounced that by the end of the second century, much of Rome's wealth was focused on maintaining a military to stay their enemies. Taxes for the big government that was necessary to maintain the peace within borders became so high that confidence faded along with business interest. Civilization had yielded itself to militarization. Big government became king, and the populace survived simply to support it.

By the time of Septimius, any concept of Roman self-rule had vanished. The Emperor all but abolished the Senate, killing twenty nine of its members. The tax burden continued as he increased the size of the army and the rate of their pay. But the procurement of money by the government from its subjects was not adequate to stem the tide of its own failures and decadence. Barbarians invaded Italy, Spain and Gaul. Persia invaded from the East. Plagues broke out devastating whole regions.

* * *

Calvin and Hobbes ponder at what is lying before them on the ground. "Look, a dead bird," the pubescent youth notifies his friend.

"It must've hit the window," marvels the friendly beast.

"Isn't it beautiful? It's so delicate," says the junior philosopher as they continue to stare in astonishment. "Sighhh. . . Once it's too late you appreciate what a miracle life is. You realize that nature is ruthless and our existence is very fragile, temporary, and precious. . . But to go on with your daily affairs, you can't really think about that. . .Which is probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. . . It's very confusing."

Then as they walk off, Calvin interjects one last thought: "I suppose it will all make sense when we grow up."

"No doubt," Hobbes confirms.

 

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Don Wigton is a graduate of the prestigious music department at CSULB where he studied under Frank Pooler, lyricist of Merry Christmas Darling, and sang in Pooler’s world renown University Choir alongside Karen and Richard Carpenter. During this time Don was also the lead composer of the band, Clovis Putney, that won the celebrated Hollywood Battle of the Bands. After giving his life to God, Don began attending Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa to study under some of the most prominent early Maranatha! musicians. Subsequently he toured the Western United States with Jedidiah in association with Myrrh Records.

Eventually Don served as a pastor at Calvary Chapel Bakersfield to witness thousands of salvations through that ministry. As the music/concert director, Don worked for seven years with most major Christian artist of that time while producing evangelical concerts attended by thousands of young people seeking after God. Don’s Calvary Chapel Praise Choir released the album Let All Who Hath Breath Praise the Lord on the Maranatha! label.

The next years of Don’s life were spent as the praise leader of First Baptist Church in Bakersfield during a time of unprecedented church renewal. Don teamed with the leadership to successfully meld the old with the new through a period of tremendous church growth. During this exciting time, Don’s praise team, Selah, produced the CD Stop and Think About It.

Today Don is the leading force behind Wigtune Company. This webbased project located at www.praisesong.net has provided several million downloads of Don’s music and hymn arrangements to tens of thousands of Christian organizations throughout the world. More music can be found at Don's Southern Cross Band website at www.socrossband.com.

The book Holy Wars represents Don’s most recent effort to bless the church with biblical instruction and direction in praise and worship. This heartfelt volume is an offering not only to God’s people, but also to God Himself.

 

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This second of five books looks into a pivotal moment in American history that corrupted her soul. It was a time when the United States was coming off an era of prosperity created by the sound economic policies, patriotism and faith of Ronald Reagan. However, during the '90s a president without scruples took the reigns of a house united and tore it asunder. As a result we live in a divided America on the brink of judgment.

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Wigtune Company offers free mp3 Jesus based praise music and song along with traditional Christian hymns performed in a contemporary fashion in order to encourage the body of Christ to blend the old with the new in a scriptural fashion.  An on-line Bible study is offered that goes into the biblical and historical foundation of worship for music ministries, the music minister, praise leader, pastor and serious Bible student.  The study is presented in outline form with relevant scripture references and questions.  Download this helpful work for free! was formed as a service to the body of Christ to encourage scriptural worship. To accomplish this goal Wigtune Company offers free contemporary Christian praise and worship music, contemporary Christian rock and hymn mp3 and chart material along with a free on-line worship study book for personal devotions, Bible study groups, Sunday schools, pastors, music ministers and ministry training.  In order to bridge the gap between the old and the new the worship study book gives solid theological and historical support to the use of traditional Christian hymn-singing in conjunction with praise chorus singing.

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Wigtune Company believes that the current contention among Christian generations over church music is unnesessary.  One does not have to chose between the classic traditional hymn and the contemporary praise chorus and song.  Solomon declared that there is a place for everything under the sun. The worship musical material and the worship Bible study book offered at the Wigtune website support this theme. Vision Statement    Don and Vanessa Wigton share the vision of Wigtune Company.  Going to this page will inform the WEB surfer the circumstances that lead to the Wigtune offering of praise song and hymn along with the worship Bible study book that lends theology and history based support to the use of traditional Christian hymn singing in conjunction with praise chorus singing.   Wigtune Story    The Wigtune Company free on-line worship Bible study book is a manual for the use of the pastor, teacher, music minister, Bible study group, sunday school and any situation where a theological and historical lesson regarding worship is desired.  The Bible study is presented in outline form with questions that require thoughtful answers to the biblical and history based information that is presented.   Free On-Line Worship Studybook   

Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use.  Free Praise and Worship Music Mp3s and Charts   Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use.

Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use. Wiggy's Top Ten Praise MP3s Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use.

Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use. Radio: Listen to Wigtune Worship Music on Live Internet Radio

Wigtune Company offers free mp3 praise music in the form of tradtional Christian hymn performed in a contemporary manner and modern praise song and choruses mp3s.  Chord charts to many of these song mp3's are available for non-commercial ministry use.    Wigtune Praise Worship and Hymn CD's

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