Theodosius pleaded that David had sinned even more deeply, and yet had been forgiven. “If you have sinned like him, repent like him,” said Ambrose; and the Emperor went back weeping to his palace, there to remain as a penitent. Easter was the usual time for receiving penitents back to the Church, but at Christmas the Emperor presented himself again, hoping to win the Bishop’s consent to his return at once; but Ambrose was firm, and again met him at the gate, rebuking him for trying to break the rules of the Church.
“No,” said Theodosius; “I am not come to break the laws, but to entreat you to imitate the mercy of God whom we serve, who opens the gates of mercy to contrite sinners.”
On seeing how deep was his repentance, Ambrose allowed him to enter the Church, though it was not for some time that he was admitted to the Holy Communion, and all that time he fasted and never put on his imperial robes. He also made a law that no sentence of death should be carried out till thirty days after it was given, so as to give time to see whether it were hasty or just.
During this reign another heresy sprang up, denying the Godhead of God the Holy Ghost, and, in consequence, Theodosius called together another Council of the Church, at which was added to the Nicene Creed those latter sentences which follow the words, “I believe in the Holy Ghost.” In this reign, too, began to be sung the Te Deum, which is generally known as the hymn of St. Ambrose. It was first used at Milan, but whether he wrote it or not is uncertain, though there is a story that he had it sung for the first time at the baptism of St. Augustine.
Theodosius only lived six months after his defeat of Eugenius, dying at Milan in 395, when only fifty years old. He was the last who really deserved the name of a Roman Emperor, though the title was kept up, and Rome had still much to undergo. He left two young sons named Arcadius and Honorius, between whom the empire was divided.
ALARIC THE GOTH.
The sons of the great Theodosius were, like almost all the children of the Roman Emperors, vain and weak, spoiled by growing up as princes. Arcadius, who was eighteen, had the East, and was under the charge of a Roman officer called Rufinus; Honorius who was only eleven, reigned at Rome under the care of Stilicho, who was by birth a Vandal, that is to say, of one of those Teutonic nations who were living all round the northern bounds of the empire, and whose sons came to serve in the Roman armies and learn Roman habits. Stilicho was brave and faithful, and almost belonged to the imperial family, for his wife Serena was niece to Theodosius, and his daughter Maria was betrothed to the young Honorius.
Stilicho was a very active, spirited man, who found troops to check the enemies of Rome on all sides of the Western Empire. Rufinus was not so faithful, and did great harm in the East by quarrelling with Arcadius’ other ministers, and then, as all believed, inviting the Goths to come out of their settlements on the Danube and invade Greece, under Alaric, the same Gothic chief who had been a friend and companion of Gratian, and had fought under Theodosius.