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be otherwise than that among the great soldiers of those times one would at last arise whose practical intellect would discover the personal advantages that must accrue from putting himself in relation with the universally prevailing idea. How could he better find adherents from the centre to the remotest corner of the empire ? And, even if his own personal intellectual state should disable him from accepting in its fulness the special form in which the idea had become embodied, could there be any doubt, if he received it, and was true to it as a politician, though ho might decline it as a man, of the immense power it would yield him in return-a power sufficient, if the metropolis should resist, or be otherwise unsuited to his designs, to enable him to found a rival to her in a more congenial place, and leave her to herself, “ the skeleton of so much glory and of so much guilt."
Thus, after the event, we can plainly see that the final blow to Polytheism was the suppression of the ancient independent nationalities around the Mediterranean Sea; and that, in like manner, Monotheism was the The coming result of the establishment of an imperial government in Rome. But the great statesmen of those bounded by times, who were at the general point of view, must have foreseen that, in whatever form the fluence. expected change came, its limits of definition would inevitably be those of the empire itself, and that wherever the language of Rome was understood the religion of Rome would prevail. In the course of ages, an expansion beyond those limits might ensue wherever the state of things was congenial. On the south, beyond the mere verge of Africa, nothing was to be hoped for- it is the country in which man lives in degradation and is happy. On the east there were great unsubdued and untouched monarchies, having their own types of civilization, and experiencing no want in a religious respect. But on the north there were nations who, though they were plunged in hideous barbarism, filthy in an equal degree in body and mind, polygamists, idolaters, drunkards out of their enemies' skulls, were yet capable of an illustrious career. For these there was a glorious participation in store.
Except the death of a nation, there is no event in human
Monotheism must be
the limits of Ronan in
The new ideas
history more profoundly solemn than the passing away of an ancient religion, though religious ideas are transitory, and creeds succeed one another with a periodicity determined by the law of continuous variation of human thought. The intellectual epoch at which we have now arrived has for its essential characteristic such a change
the abandonment of a time-honoured but obsolete coalesce with system, the acceptance of a new and living one;
and, in the incipient stages, opinion succeeding opinion in a well-marked way, until at length, after a few centuries of fusion and solution, there crystallized on the remnant of Roman power, as on a nucleus, a definite form, which, slowly modifying itself into the Papacy, served the purposes of Europe for more than a thousand years throughout its age of Faith.
In this abandonment, the personal conduct of the educated classes very powerfully assisted. They outwardly conformed to the ceremonial of the times, reserving their higher doctrines to themselves, as something beyond vulgar comprehension. Considering themselves as an in
tellectual aristocracy, they stood aloof, and, with
an ill-concealed smile, consented to the transited men at parent folly around them. It had come to an this .
evil state when authors like Polybius and Strabo apologized to their compeers for the traditions and legends they ostensibly accepted, on the ground that it is incon. venient and needless to give popular offence, and that those who are children in understanding must, like those who are children in age, be kept in order by bugbears. It had come to an evil state when the awful ceremonial of former times had degenerated into a pageant, played off' by an infidel priesthood and unbelieving aristocracy : when oracles were becoming mute, because they could no longer withstand the sly wit of the initiated ; when the miracles of the ancients were regarded as mere lies, and of contemporaries as feats of legerdemain. It had come to an evil pass when even statesmen received it as a maxim that when the people have advanced in intellectual culture to a certain point, the sacerdotal class must either deceive them or oppress them, if it means to keep its power.
In Rome, at the time of Augustus, the intellectual
Cinduct of the
classes -- philosophers and statesmen had completely emerged from the ancient modes of thought. To them, the national legends, so jealously guarded by Religious conthe populace, had become mere fictions. The dition of the miraculous conception of Rhea Sylvia by the god classes in Mars, an event from which their ancestors had Rome. deduced with pride the celestial origin of the founder of their city, had dwindled into a myth; as a source of actual reliance and trust, the intercession of Venus that emblem of female loveliness, with the father of the gods in behalf of her human favourites. was abandoned; the Sibylline books, once believed to contain all that was necessary for the prosperity of the republic, were suspected of an origin more sinister than celestial ; nor were insinuations wanting that from time to time they had been tampered with to suit the expediency of passing interests, or even that the true ones were lost and forgeries put in their stead. The Greek mythology was to them, as it is to us, an object of reverence, not because of any inherent truth, but because of the exquisite embodiments it can yield in poetry, in painting in marble. The existence of those illustrious men who, on account of their useful lives or excellent example, had, by the pious ages of old, been sanctified or ever deified, was denied, or, if admitted, they were regarded as the exaggerations of dark and barbarous times. It was thus with Æsculapius, Bacchus, and Hercules. And as to the various forms of worship, the multitude of sects into which the pagan nations were broken up offered themselves as a spectacle of imbecile and inconsistent devotion alto. gether unworthy of attention, except so far as they might be of use to the interests of the state.
Such was the position of things among the educated. In one sense they had passed into liberty, in another they were in bondage. Their indisposition to encounter those inflictions with which their illiterate contem- Their irresoporaries might visit them may seem to us sur- lution. prizing: they acted as if they thought that the public was à wild beast that would bite if awakened too abruptly from its dream ; but their pusillanimity, at the most, could only postpone for a little an inevitable day. The ignorant classes whom they had so much feared, awoke
in due season spontaneously, and saw in the clear light how matters stood.
Of the Roman emperors there were some whose intellectual endowments were of the highest kind; yet, though it must have been plain to them, as to all who turned their attention to the matter, in what direction society was drifting, they let things take their course, and no one
lifted a finger to guide. It may be said that the affairs to the genius of Rome manisesti d itself rather in phy
sical than in intellectual operations; but in her
best days it was never the genius of Rome to abandon great events to freedmen, eunuchs, and slaves. By such it was that the ancient gods were politically cast aside, while the government was speciously yielding a simulated obedience to them, and hence it was not at all surprizing that, soon after the introduction of Christianity, its pure doctrines were debased by a commingling with ceremonies of the departing creed. It
It was not to be expected that the popular mind could spontaneously extricate itself from the vicious circle in which it was involved. Nothing but philosophy was competent to deliver it, and philosophy failed of its duty at the critical moment. The classical scholar need scarcely express his
surprize that the Feriæ Augusti were continued quent debase- in the Church as the Festival St. Petri in
vinculis; that even to our own times an image
of the holy Virgin was carried to the river in the same manner as in the old times was that of Cybele, and that many pagan rites still continue to be observed in Rome. Had it been in such incidental particulars only that the vestiges of paganism were preserved, the thing would have been of little moment; but, as all who have examined the subject very well know, the evil was far more general, far more profound. When it was announced to the Ephesians that the Council of that place, headed by Cyril, had decreed that the Virgin should be called “the Mother of God,” with tears of joy they embraced the knees of their bishop; it was the old instinct peeping out; their ancestors would have done the same for Diana. If Trajan, after ten centuries, could have revisited Rome, he would, without difficulty, have recognized the drama, though the
ment of Christianity in Rome.
actors and scenery had all changed; he would have reflected how great a mistake had been committed in the legislation of his reign, and how much better it is, when the intellectual basis of a religion is gone, for a wise government to abstain from all compulsion in behalf of what has become untenable, and to throw itself into the new movement so as to shape the career by assuming the lead. Philosophy is useless when misapplied in support of things which common sense has begun to reject; she shares in the discredit which is attaching to them. The opportunity of rendering herself of service to humanity once lost, ages may elapse before it occurs again. Igporance and low interests seize the moment, and fasten a burden on man which the struggles of a thousand years may not suffice to cast off. Of all the duties of an enlightened government, this of allying itself with Philosophy in the critical moment in which society is passing through so serious a metamorphosis of its opinions as is involved in the casting off of its ancient investiture of Faith, and its assumption of a new one, is the most important, for it stands connected with things that outlast all temporal concerns.