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plane, of the old Roman Commonwealth.
The resemblance between the Roman Catholic ceremonies and those of Pagan Rome has been often noticed. The Roman Catholic Church has borrowed from Paganism saints' days, incense, lustrations, consecrations of sacred places, votiveofferings, relics; winking, nodding, sweating, and bleeding images; holy water, vestments, etc. But the Church of Rome itself, in its central idea of authority, is a reproduction of the Roman state religion, which was a part of the Roman state. The Eastern churches were sacerdotal and religious ; the Church of Rome added to these elements that of an organized political authority. It was the resurrection of Rome, - Roman ideas rising into a higher life. The Roman Catholic Church, at first an aristocratic republic, like the Roman state, afterwards became, like the Roman state, a disguised despotism.
The Papal Church is therefore a legacy of ancient Rome. *
And just as the Roman state was first a help and then a hindrance to the progress of humanity, so it has been with the Roman Catholic Church. Ancient Rome gradually bound together into a vast political unity the divided tribes and states of Europe, and so infused into them the civilization which she had developed or received. And so the Papal Church united Europe again, and once more permeated it with the elements of law, of order, of Christian faith. All intelligent Protestants admit the good done in this way by the mediæval church.
For example, Milman t says, speaking of Gregory the Great and his work, that it was necessary that there should be some central power like the Papacy to resist the dissolution of society at the downfall of the Roman Empire. “The life and death of Christianity” depended, he says, " on the rise of such a power." “ It is impossible to conceive what had been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages, without the mediæval Papacy."
* See Ranke, History of the Popes, Chap. I., where he says that the Roman Empire gave its outward form to Christianity (meaning Latin Christianity), and that the constitution of the hierarchy was necessarily modelled on that of the Empire.
+ History of Latin Christianity, Vol. II. p. 100.
The whole history of Rome had infused into the minds of Western nations a conviction of the importance of centralization in order to union. From Rome, as a centre, had proceeded government, law, civilization. Christianity therefore seemed to need a like centre, in order to retain its unity. Hence the supremacy early yielded to the Bishop of Rome. His primacy was accepted, because it was useful. The Papal Church would never have existed, if Rome and its organizing ideas had not existed before Christianity was born.
In like manner the ideas developed in the Roman mind determined the course of Western theology, as differing from that of the East. It is well known that Eastern theological speculation was occupied with the nature of God and the person of Christ, but that Western theology discussed sin and salvation. Mr. Maine, in his work on “ Ancient Law," considers this difference to have been occasioned by habits of thought produced by Roman jurisprudence. I quote his language at some length:
“What has to be determined is whether jurisprudence has ever served as the medium through which theological principles have been viewed ; whether, by supplying a peculiar language, a peculiar mode of reasoning, and a peculiar solution of many of the problems of life, it has ever opened new channels in which theological speculation could flow out and expand itself.”
“On all questions, continues Mr. Maine, quoting Dean Milman, “which concerned the person of Christ and the nature of the Trinity, the Western world accepted passively the dogmatic system of the East.”
But as soon as the Latin-speaking empire began to live an intellectual life of its own, its deference to the East was at once exchanged for the agitation of a number of questions entirely foreign to Eastern speculation.” “ The nature of sin and its transmission by inheritance, the debt owed by man and its vicarious satisfaction, and like theological problems, relating not to the divinity but to human nature, immediately began to be agitated." "I affirm," says Mr. Maine,“ without hesitation, that the difference between the two theological systems is accounted for by the fact that, in passing from the East to the West, theological speculation had passed from a climate of Greek metaphysics to a climate of Roman law. For some centuries before these controversies rose into overwhelming importance, all the intellectual activity of the Western Romans had been expended on jurisprudence exclusively. They had been occupied in applying a peculiar set of principles to all combinations in which the circumstances of life are capable of being arranged. No foreign pursuit or taste called off their attention from this engrossing occupation, and for carrying it on they possessed a vocabulary as accurate as it was copious, a strict method of reasoning, a stock of general propositions on conduct more or less verified by experience, and a rigid moral philosophy. It was impossible that they should not select from the questions indicated by the Christian records those which had some affinity with the order of speculations to which they were accustomed, and that their manner of dealing with them should not borrow something from their forensic habits. Almost every one who has knowledge enough of Roman law to appreciate the Roman penal system, the Roman theory of the obligations established by contract or delict, the Roman view of debts, etc., the Roman notion of the continuance of individual existence by universal succession, may be trusted to say whence arose the frame of mind to which the problems of Western theology proved so congenial, whence came the phraseology in which these problems were stated, and whence the description of reasoning employed in their solution.” "As soon as they (the Western Church) ceased to sit at the feet of the Greeks and began to ponder out a theology of their own, the theology proved to be permeated with forensic ideas and couched in a forensic phraseology. It is certain that this substratum of law in Western theology lies exceedingly deep." *
The theory of the atonement, developed by the scholastic writers, illustrates this view. In the East, for a thousand years, the atoning work of Christ had been viewed
Maine, Ancient Law, Chap. IX.
mainly as redemption, as a ransom paid to obtain the freedom of mankind, enslaved by the Devil in consequence of their sins. It was not a legal theory, or one based on notions of jurisprudence, but it was founded on warlike notions. Men were captives taken in war, and, like all captives in those times, destined to slavery. Their captor was Satan, and the ransom must be paid to him, as he held them prisoners by the law of battle. Now as Christ had committed no sin, the Devil had no just power over him; in putting Christ to death he had lost his rights over his other captives, and Christ could justly claim their freedom as a compensation for this injury. Christ, therefore, strictly and literally, according to the ancient view, “ gave his life a ransom for many."
But the mind of Anselm, educated by notions derived from Roman jurisprudence, substituted for this original theory of the atonement one based upon legal ideas. All, in this theory, turns on the law of debt and penalty. Sin he defines as not paying to God what we owe him." But we owe God constant and entire obedience, and every sin deserves either penalty or satisfaction. We are unable to make it good, for at every moment we owe God all that we can do. Christ, as God-man, can satisfy God for our omissions ; his death, as offered freely, when he did not deserve death on account of any sin of his own, is sufficient satisfaction. It will easily be seen how entirely this argument has substituted a legal basis for the atonement in place of the old warlike foundation.
This, therefore, has been the legacy of ancient Rome to Christianity: firstly, the organization of the Latin Church; secondly, the scholastic theology, founded on notions of jurisprudence introduced into man's relations to God. In turn, Christianity has bestowed on Western Europe what the old Romans never knew, - a religion of love and inspiration. In place of the hard and cold Roman life, inodern Europe has sentiment and heart united with thought and force. With Roman strength it has joined a Christian tenderness, romance, and personal freedom. Humanity now is greater than the social organization; the state, according to our view, is made for man, not man for the state. We are outgrowing the hard and dry theology which we have inherited from Roman law through the scholastic teachers; but we shall not outgrow our inheritance from Rome of unity in the Church, definite thought in our theology, and society organized by law.
*“ Non aliud peccare quam Deo non reddere debitum.”