The historian, Edward Gibbon lived from 1737 to 1794 and his most famous work was his study into the Roman Empire which was published as ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ and in it he traced the reasons for the demise of one of the greatest, most prosperous and well organised empires the world has ever seen. Those reasons were as follows.
1. The rapid increase in divorce. This undermined the sanctity of marriage and destabilised family life and was a major contribution to the breakdown of strength, stability and integrity in Roman society. The Bible emphasises the need for fidelity and love in marriages, so that children are not disorientated but balanced and healthy through true family life. The experience of Rome gives a warning for us today.
2. Higher taxes. This became an alarming burden for the working population of the Roman Empire as their wages decreased in value through punitive taxation systems. This led to frustration and disillusionment with government and cynicism about society.
3. The mad craze for pleasure. This can be summarised as “eat, drink and be merry” and is the philosophy of hedonism. This grips much of society today but we should take warning from history that selfishness leads to social decay. The Bible does not emphasise self-indulgence but self-sacrifice and commitment to the welfare of others.
4. The building of gigantic armaments. Weapons of mass destruction were relied upon to maintain a prosperous way of life. We have seen the building of more sophisticated, expensive and destructive weapons in modern times and yet we do not feel more secure. True protection is eternal and spiritual through trust in Jesus Christ.
5. The decay of religion. When there is no true appreciation of and reverence for God and the wonder of His salvation then a society has truly lost its moorings. This was true of the Roman Empire and it seems increasingly true of modern day society.
There is need to turn our attention back to God, to His Word – the Bible and to His Son, Jesus Christ.
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