Imágenes de páginas

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 Surrender of affairs to the genius of Rome manifest d itself rather in phy. illiterale sical than in intellectual operations ; but in her classes,

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 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 and conse- surprize that the Feriæ Augusti were continued quent debase- in the Church as the Festival St. Petri in ment of Christianity in vinculis ; that even to our own times an image Rome. 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

actors and scenery had all changed; he would have re flected how great a mistake had been committed in the iegislation 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. Ignorance 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.

VOL. I.-13






Rise of Christianity.-Distinguished from ecclesiastical Organization.

It is demanded by the deplorable Condition of the Empire.--Its brief Conflict with Paganism.-Character of its first Organization. Variations of Thought and Rise of Sects: their essential Difference in the East and West. The three primitive Forms of Christianity : the Judaic Form, its Endthe Gnostic Form, its Endthe African

Form, continues. Spread of Christianity from Syria.- Its Antagonism to Imperialism;

their Conflicts.Position of Affairs under Diocletian.The Policy of Constantine.He avails himself of the Christian Party, and through it attains supreme Power.-His personal Relations to it. The Trinitarian Controversy.Story of Arius.The Council of Nicea. The Progress of the Bishop of Rome to Supremacy. The Roman

Church ; its primitive subordinate Position.Causes of its increasing Wealth, Influence, and Corruptions. Stages of its Advancemciet through the Pelagian, Nestorian, and Eutychian Disputes.-Rivalry

of the Bishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. Necessity of a Pontif in the West and ecclesiastical Councils in the East.

-Nature of those Councils and of pontifical Power. The Period closes at the Capture and Sack of Rome by Alaric.Defence

of that Event by St. Augustine.-Criticism on his Writings. Character of the Progress of Thought through this Period.-Destiny of

the three greut Bishops.

· From the decay of Polytheism and the decline of Subject of the philosophy, from the moral and social disot:apter. Organization of the Roman empire, I have now to turn to the most important of all events, the rise of


Christianity. I have to show how a variation of opinion proceeded and reached its culmination ; how it was closed by the establishment of a criterion of truth, under the form of ecclesiastical councils, and a system developed which supplied the intellectual wants of Europe for nearly a thousand years.

The reader, to whom I have thus offered a representar tion of the state of Roman affairs, must now prepare to look at the consequences thereof. Together we must trace out the progress of Christianity, examine Introduction the adaptation of its cardinal principles to the to the study of wants of the empire, and the variations it Christianity. exhibited—a task supremely difficult, for even sincerity and truth will sometimes offend. For my part, it is my intention to speak with veneration on this great topic, and yet with liberty, for freedom of thought and expression is to me the first of all earthly things.

But, that I may not be misunderstood, I here, at the outset, emphatically distinguish between Chris- Distin tianity and ecclesiastical organizations. The between former is the gift of God; the latter are the ch product of human exigencies and human tical organizainvention, and therefore open to criticism, or, if need be, to condemnation.

From the condition of the Roman empire may be indicated the principles of any new system adapted to its amelioration. In the reign of Augustus, Moral state of violence paused only because it had finished its the world at work. Faith was dead; morality had disap- this period. peared. Around the shores of the Mediterranean the conquered nations looked at one another--partakers of a common misfortune, associates in a common lot. Not one of them had found a god to help her in her day of need. Europe, Asia, and Africa were tranquil, but it was the silence of despair.

Rome never considered man as an individual, but only as a thing. Her way to political greatness was Unnitving pursued utterly regardless of human suffering. tyranny of If advantages accrued to the conquered under kom her dominion, they arose altogether from incident, and never from her purposed intent. She was no self-conscious,

Christianity and ecclesias


deliberate civilizer. Conquest and rapine, the uniform aim of her actions, never permitted her, even at her utmost intellectual development, to comprehend the equal rights of all men in the eye of the law. Unpitying in her stern policy, few were the occasions when, for high state reasons, she stayed her uplifted hand. She might in the wantonness of her power, stoop to mercy; she never rose to benevolence.

When Syria was paying one third of its annual produce in taxes, is it surprising that the Jewish peasant sighed for a deliverer, and eagerly listened to the traditions of Prepares the his nation that a temporal Messiah, “a king way for the of the Jews" would soon come? When there recognition of the equality was announced the equality of all men before of all men. God, “who maketh his sun to shine on the good and the evil, and sendeth his rain on the just and the unjust,” is it surprising that men looked for equal rights before the law ? Universal equality means universal benevolence; it substitutes for the impersonal and easily-eluded commands of the state the dictates of an ever-present conscience ; it accepts the injunction, “Do unto others as you would they should do to you."

In the spread of a doctrine two things are concerned its own intrinsic nature, and the condition of him on whom it is intended to act. The spread of Christianity is Attitude of not difficult to be understood. Its antagonist, Paganism. Paganism, presented inherent weakness, infidelity, and a cheerless prospect; a system, if that can be cilled so, which had no ruling idea, no principles, no organization ; caring nothing for proselytes ; its rival pontiffs devoted to many gods, but forming no political combination : occupying themselves with directing public worship and foretelling future events, but not interfering in domestic life; giving itself no concern for the lowly and unfortunate; not recognizing, or, at the best, doubtfully admitting a future life; limiting the hopes and destiny of man to this world ; teaching that temporal prosperity may be selfishly gained at any cost, and looking to suicide as the relief of the brave from misfortune.

On the other side was Christianity, with its enthu siasm and burning faith; its rewards in this life, and

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