41: Declining Spirituality

…the love of many shall wax cold

Matthew 24:12

From the accession of Gallienus in 260 AD until the beginning of the Diocletian persecution in 303 AD the Church enjoyed more than forty years of uninterrupted peace. Human nature, however, is a strange and disquieting study. It is often the case that prosperity and freedom creates a sense of ease and self sufficiency which turns the soul away from God. According to Philip Schaff, the Christian historian, this was certainly the case during what should have been a blessed time.

During this long season the church rose rapidly in numbers and outward prosperity…But in the same proportion discipline relaxed, quarrels, intrigues, and factions increased, and worldliness poured in like a flood. Hence a new trial was a necessary and wholesome process of purification.

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church

It is often said that the apostasy which set in after the accession of Constantine can be traced to the mingling of paganism with Christianity. While there is some truth in that comment, we can already observe the seeds of decline before Constantine the Great was born. The real problem lay within the heart of God’s people. The Laodicean spirit is never far away and lingers in our souls.

In the wisdom of God, He raised up Rome as this fierce persecuting agent, because it was only in such a crucible of affliction that the Church could be grown from a handful of people in Jerusalem to being the greatest power for good that the world has ever seen.

Where there is decline today let us pray for recovery and where there is need for purification, that we might challenge the citadels of Satan, let us pray that the fire of the Spirit would fall, that we might be made strong.

O Holy Spirit, with Thy fire divine,
Melt into tears this thankless heart of mine;
Teach me to love what once I seemed to hate,
And live to God, before it be too late.

H.W. Baker

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