In Contemplation of the Roman Empire

Written by C. R. Carmichael |
Sunday, October 15, 2023

“All human systems fail because the trouble is within the people themselves, and external rules and laws and regulations cannot change them. It is not that we need better laws, but that we need better natures; not better instruction, but better spirits and better desires. And so all this human history comes to nothing. And yet these earthly authorities prohibit the preaching of the Gospel, the only thing that can save the situation.” Lloyd-Jones

How often do you think about the Roman Empire? Recently Forbes reported that, according to a bizarre new TikTok trend, men think about the Roman Empire more often than you would expect. As Conor Murray, a “trends reporter” for Forbes, explained this phenomenon: “TikTok users are asking their boyfriends, fathers or any other man how often they think about the Roman Empire—and surprisingly, some say they think about the fallen empire daily or even more often, sparking online confusion and launching a TikTok trend that’s garnered more than a billion views.”

Strangely enough, this peculiar focus on the Roman Empire was once also on the brilliant mind of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Many decades before TikTok, social media or even the internet, Lloyd-Jones was forcibly struck by the tragic similarities of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and the collapse of Christian influence in the West.

Sadly, things have only gotten worse for our Western society since Lloyd-Jones’ observation—and surely, if alive today, he would point to this current obsession with the Roman Empire to suggest that maybe the thoughtful men in our day are, consciously or not, harboring grave concerns about the similar trajectory of our failing society and wondering what they should do to stem the tide for the sake of their faith and family.

Here, then, is what the great Welsh evangelical minister would no doubt tell them, which is exactly as he addressed this issue during his many years of proclaiming and promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ prior to his death in 1981. Said Lloyd-Jones on various occasions:

“Why, in spite of all our efforts and endeavors and great advances, is the world still in trouble? Why is every advance followed by regression, every rise by a decline and fall? Why do our attempts to govern the world end in disaster? What is the matter? And there is only one answer. It is due to the fact that men and women have sinful and fallen natures; it is due to their estrangement from God; and, more, it is due to God’s wrath upon humanity in its sinfulness and arrogance. But the tragedy of the world is that it does not realize this.

“I was reading again, only the other day, and it struck me forcibly, the explanation given by that great historian Edward Gibbon, who was not a Christian, for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. And if his explanation is not also true of this country today, then I am completely ignorant!

“Here are the five reasons Gibbon gives:

One: The rapid increase of divorce and “the undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.” Now that is not being said by me, a little evangelical preacher—that is the great Edward Gibbon, and, of course, he is right. The home is the fundamental unit in society and once the home goes, everything will go, sooner or later.

Two: “Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public monies on bread and circuses.”

Three: “The mad craze for pleasure and sport; sport becoming every year more and more exciting and brutal.”

Four: “The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy is within—in the decadence of the people themselves.”

And Fifth: “The decay of religious faith; faith fading into mere form which has lost all contact with reality.”

“The Roman Empire was a wonderful civilization. Those Romans were perhaps the greatest experts the world has ever known on local government and on legal systems. The Roman system—that was real civilization.

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