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CHAP. I. REVOLUTION EFFECTED BY CHRISTIANITY.
fallacious to those who hope for power, are ever proscribed, yet will ever remain. They were at length taken under the avowed patronage of Vespasian and his successors.k All these circumstances were manifest indications of the decay and of the approaching dissolution of the old religion. The elegiac poet had read, not without sagacity, the signs of the times.
None sought the aid of foreign gods, while bow'd
Before their native shrines the trembling crowd.“ And thus, in this struggle between the old household deities of the established faith, and the half-domiciliated gods of the stranger, undermined by philosophy, supplanted by still darker superstition, Polytheism seemed, as it were, to await its death-blow; and to be ready to surrender its ancient honours to the conqueror, whom Divine Providence should endow with sufficient authority over the human mind to seize upon the abdicated supremacy.
Such is the state in which the ancient world leaves the mind of man. On a sudden a new era Revolution commences; a rapid yet gradual revolution Christianity. takes place in the opinions, sentiments, and principles of mankind; the void is filled ; the connexion between religion and morals re-established with an intimacy of union yet unknown. The unity of the Deity becomes,
I Genus hominum, potentibus in- sense the most religious poet of this fidum, sperantibus fallax, quod in period : his verses teem with mythocivitate nostrâ et vetabitur semper et logical allusion, but it is poetical retinebitur. Tac. Hist. i. 22.
ornament rather than the natural lank Tac. Hist. ii. 78. Suet. in Vesp. guage of piety; it has much of the Dio, lxviii. Suet, in Dom. xiv. xv. artificial school of the Alexandrian m Nulli cura fuit externos quærere Divos, Callimachus, his avowed model, noCum tremeret patrio pendula turba foro. thing of the simplicity of faith which
PROP. iv, 1-17.
breathed in Pindar and Sophocles. Propertius may be considered in one
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
not the high and mysterious creed of a privileged sacerdotal or intellectual oligarchy, but the common property of all whose minds are fitted to receive it: all religious distinctions are annihilated; the jurisdictions of all local deities abolished ; and imperceptibly the empire of Rome becomes one great Christian commonwealth, which even sends out, as it were, its peaceful colonies into regions beyond the limits of the Imperial power. The characteristic distinction of the general revolution is this : that the physical agency of the Deity seems to recede from the view, while the spiritual character is more distinctly unfolded; or rather, the notion of the Divine Power is merged in the more prevailing sentiment of his moral Goodness. The remarkable passage in the Jewish history, in which God is described as revealing himself to Elijah, “neither in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice,” may be considered, we will not say prophetic, but singularly significant of the sensations to be excited in the human mind by the successive revelations of the Deity. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul partook
in the same change with the notion of the
Deity; it became at once popular, simple, and spiritual. It was disseminated throughout all orders of society: it admitted no aristocratic elysium of heroes and demi-gods, like that of the early Greeks ;” it sepa
Immortality of the soul.
n It is curious to see, in another ! whether a poor man was thought mythology, the same martial aristo- worthy of any place in his dwellings, cratic spirit which, in the earlier reli- unless he came from the field of battle gions, excluded the đuévnva kápnva, in the bloody train of some great the inglorious vulgar, from the seats chieftain. Slaves at least were disof bliss, where Achilles and Diomed tinctly excluded, and after death turned pursued their warlike amusements. away from the doors of Valhalla. It was not proper to appear poor be- Geijer, Hist. of Sweden, Germ. Transl. fore Odin; and it is very doubtful i. 103.
PRIMARY PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION.
rated itself from that earlier and widely prevalent form, which it assumed in the theogonies of the Natureworship, where the soul emanating from the source of Being, after one or many transmigrations, was reabsorbed into the Divine Essence. It announced the resurrection of all mankind to judgment, and the reunion of the spirit to a body, which, preserving the principle of identity, nevertheless should be of a purer and more imperishable nature. Such are the great primary principles, which became incorporated with the mind of man; and, operating on all human institutions, on the common sentiments of the whole race, form the great distinctive difference between the ancient and the modern, the European and the Asiatic world. During the dark
ages there was a strong reaction of barbarism : in its outward form Christianity might appear to recede towards the polytheism of older times; and, as has been shown, not in a philosophic, but in a narrow polemic spirit of hostility to the Church of Rome, many of the rites and usages of heathenism were admitted into the Christian system ; yet the indelible difference between the two periods remained. A higher sense and meaning was infused into these forms; God was considered in his moral rather than his physical attributes—as the Lord of the future as much or even more than of the present world. The saints and angels, who have been compared to the intermediate deities of the older superstitions, had, nevertheless, besides their tutelar power against immediate accidents and temporal calamities, an important influence over the state of the soul in the world to come; they assumed the higher office of ministering the hopes of the future, in a still greater degree than the blessings of the present life.
To the more complete development of this fact we
DESIGN OF THIS HISTORY.
shall descend in the course of our History, which will
endeavour to trace all the modifications of this History. Christianity, by which it accommodated itself to the spirit of successive ages; and by this apparently almost skilful, but in fact necessary condescension to the predominant state of moral culture, of which itself formed a constituent element, maintained its uninterrupted dominion. It is the author's object, the difficulty of which he himself fully appreciates, to portray the genius of the Christianity of each successive age, in connexion with that of the age itself; entirely to discard all polemic views; to mark the origin and progress of all the subordinate diversities of belief; their origin in the circumstances of the place or time in which they appeared; their progress from their ada
from their adaptation to the prevailing state of opinion or sentiment: rather than directly to confute error or to establish truth ; in short, to exhibit the reciprocal influence of civilisation on Christianity, of Christianity on civilisation. To the accomplishment of such a scheme he is well aware, that besides the usual high qualifications of a faithful historian, is requisite, in an especial manner, the union of true philosophy with perfect charity, if indeed they are not one and the same. This calm, impartial, and dispassionate tone he will constantly endeavour, he dares scarcely hope, with such warnings on every side of involuntary prejudice and unconscious prepossession, uniformly to maintain. In the honesty of his purpose he will seek his excuse for all imperfection or deficiency in the execution of his scheme. Nor is he aware that he enters on ground preoccupied by any writers of established authority, at least in our own country, where the History of Christianity has usually assumed the form of a History of the Church, more or less contro
CHRISTIANITY AT DIFFERENT PERIODS.
versial, and confined itself to annals of the internal feuds and divisions in the Christian community, and the variations in doctrine and discipline, rather than to its political and social influence. Our attention, on the other hand, will be chiefly directed to its effects on the social and even political condition of man, as it extended itself throughout the Roman world, and at length entered into the administration of government and of law; the gradual manner in which it absorbed and incorporated into the religious commonwealth the successive masses of population, which, after having overthrown the temporal polity of Rome, were subdued to the religion of the conquered people; the separation of the human race into the distinct castes of the clergy and laity; the former at first an aristocracy, afterwards a despotic monarchy: as Europe sank back into barbarism, the imaginative state of the human mind, the formation of a new poetic faith, a mythology, Christianity and a complete system of symbolical worship; form in diffethe interworking of Christianity with barba- of civilisation rism, till they slowly grew into a kind of semi-barbarous heroic period, that of Christian chivalry ; the gradual expansion of the system, with the expansion of the human mind; and the slow, perhaps not yet complete, certainly not general, development of a rational and intellectual religion. Throughout his work the author will equally, or as his disposition inclines, even more diligently, labour to show the good as well as the evil of each phasis of Christianity ; since it is his opinion that, at every period, much more is to be attributed to the circumstances of the age, to the collective operation of certain principles which grew out of the events of the time, than to the intentional or accidental influence of any individual or class of men. Christianity, in short,