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tianity which teaches the doctrine of a universal brotherhood; this alone, since it enables us, as nothing else does, or can, to harmonize individual interest and patriotism and philanthropy, through those spiritual bonds which unite us as one before a common Father and Redeemer.
It is true, also, whatever the moral principles taught, or however high at any time the tone of morals may have been, that there was a great deterioration before the empire became Christian. This fact is recognized by Lecky. "We find,” he says, "a society almost absolutely destitute of moralizing institutions, occupations, and beliefs, existing under an economical and political system which inevitably led to general depravity, and passionately addicted to the most brutalizing amusements." And again: And again: "Such were the influences which acted, in turn, upon a society which, by despotism, by slavery, and by atrocious amusements, had been debased and corrupted to the very core." This fact, it may be noted, whatever it may declare as to the conservative influence, or the want of it, in pagan morals,shows that Christianity did not plant its first seeds in a highly developed and moral community, when it took in hand the conversion of the Roman empire; but that its task was to revivify a society which "by despotism, by slavery, and by atrocious amusements had been debased and corrupted to the very core."
Thus, notwithstanding the concessions made, we think the total impression left in regard to the natural morals of pagan Rome too favorable. This will still further appear in the comparison, if we look at the other side of the picture. While speaking of the moral character and influence of Christian Rome, or of the church after the empire became Christian, Lecky, indeed, finds much to commend. The high conception formed of the sanctity of human life, the protection of infancy, the elevation and final emancipation of the slave classes, the suppression of barbarous games (the most important Christian influence exerted upon society is
1 Vol. i. p. 355.
thought to be the extinction of the gladiatorial shows) — these, together with "the creation of a vast and multifarious organization of charity and the education of the imagination by the Christian type, constitute together a movement of philanthropy which has never been paralleled or approached in the pagan world." The movement has also been favorable to the promotion of happiness, and in determining character not less.1 Nor yet can we be unmindful of the great missionary labors performed by the church at a later period.2
On the other hand, the author, having, as must be confessed, an excellent opportunity for portraying the evils of celibacy, asceticism, and ecclesiastical bigotry, avails himself of his opportunity, and occupies much space in setting forth these excrescences and their unhappy effects; which, however, must be here passed by, although his array of facts leaves an impression which can hardly be appreciated except by reading them in their connection.
Now, are we to suppose, whatever comments and concessions Lecky may make, that he intends, all things considered, to give the preference to the later morality? In one passage he gives us quite clearly his opinion on this point, which, in fact, is not very different from what his "moral types" might have led us to anticipate: "She [the church] exercised for many centuries an almost absolute empire over the thoughts and actions of mankind, and created a civilization which was permeated in every part with ecclesiastical influence. And the dark ages, as the period of Catholic ascendency is justly called, do undoubtedly display many features of great and genuine excellence. In active benevolence, in the spirit of reverence, in loyalty, in co-operative habits, they far transcend the noblest ages of pagan antiquity, while in that humanity which shrinks from the infliction of suffering they were superior to Roman, and in their respect for chastity to Greek, civilization. On the other hand, they rank immeasurably below the best pagan civilization in civic and patriotic virtues, in love of liberty, in the number and 2 Vol. ii. p. 261.
1 Vol. ii. p. 107.
splendor of the great characters they produced, in the dignity and beauty of the type of character they formed. They had their full share of tumult, anarchy, injustice, and war; and they should probably be placed in all intellectual virtues lower than any other period in the history of mankind." 1
And thus, when we have read and compared all that is said, in the two volumes, of the pagan and of the Christian morality, we feel that their author regards it as right to take the church as the exponent of Christianity. We certainly cannot think him unwilling to have this conviction prevail; and we are sure he would not have us think of Christian morality as, on the whole, superior to pagan morality.
We find Mr. Lecky's history further unsatisfactory, and this in its bearing on Christianity, because of not recognizing the cycles of civilization as these appear from a true historic point of view. One long cycle, including Thebes, Carthage, and Rome, was passing away with the decay of pagan morality. A new one was introduced, with the introduction of Christianity, differing from the former in its principles and its method, as well as in the seat of its principal development. The former was that of the Mediterranean states; the latter, that of the Atlantic states. Mommsen, in the introduction to his History of Rome, presents this thought so well that, while we use his words, he shall be authority for the position here taken: "The distinction. between ancient and modern history, therefore, is no mere accident, nor yet a mere matter of chronological convenience. What is called modern history is, in reality, the formation of a new cycle of culture, connected in several stages of its development with the perishing or perished civilization of the Mediterranean states, as this was connected with the primitive civilization of the Indo-Germanic 1 Compare in Vol. ii. p. 44 and p. 148, with pp. 15, 16.
2 The church should truly represent the Spirit of Christianity. Lecky implies that it does; that it did, notwithstanding its corruptions, during the period of which he treats. This is not fair, because not true.
stock, but destined, like the earlier cycle, to traverse an orbit of its own. ... And yet this goal will only be temporary. The grandest system of civilization has its orbit, and may complete its course; but not so the human race, to which, just when it has reached its goal, the old task is ever set anew, with a wider range and with a deeper meaning."1
But the author of the History of European Morals, although this history extends from the last epoch of the Mediterranean cycle to the dawn of the new and Christian type of civilization which was to characterize the Atlantic states, does not recognize—perhaps his naturalistic stand-point would not allow him to appreciate--the fact of the transition from the one kind of civilization to the other, or the important difference between the two. At least, his treatment of the subject indicates that he would regard the later as a development from, and modification of, the earlier civilization. Hence the complaint that no more of the old was preserved -that Christianity did not immediately rebuild the decaying civilization.
Is it not in accordance with this view of development from the past, that, while Lecky finds Christianity for a long period too weak to regenerate Europe, he should make the pagan literature of antiquity and the Mohammedan schools of science the chief agencies in resuscitating the dormant energies of Christendom?2 How could he so overlook or
1 Mommsen's History of Rome, Vol. i. p. 24.
2 In the passage referred to (Vol. ii. p. 17, 18), the author while giving his opinion on the point in hand, also affords some intimation of his opinion of theology and the church. "If we desire to form a just estimate of the realized improvement, we must compare the classical and ecclesiastical civilizations as wholes, and must observe in each case not only the vices that were repressed, but also the degree and variety of positive excellence obtained. In the first two centuries of the Christian church the moral elevation was extremely high, and was continually appealed to as proof of the divinity of the creed. In the century before the conversion of Constantine, a marked depression was already manifest. The two centuries after Constantine are uniformly represented by the Fathers as a period of general and scandalous vice. The ecclesiastical civilization that followed, though not without its distinctive merits, assuredly supplies no justification of the common boast about the regeneration of society by the church. That the civilization of the last three centuries has risen in most
ignore the fact that a new life appeared in the Atlantic civilization when the Reformation arose on Europe, when the doctrine of the grace of God was again preached, and when the New Testament was circulated, by the aid of the printing-press, and put into, or restored to, the masses, with the consequent knowledge and diffusion of its principles and precepts?
Let us not mistake the intimation here given that that modern culture, zealously advocated by many, is rather of the pagan than of the Christian type. The one treats man as the product of nature, and would educate him by natural agencies; the other recognizes man as spiritual, related to a personal God, and capable of being influenced by supernatural agencies. It also recognizes the Christian religion as divine, and the most efficient power in the advance of civilization, and essential to the true elevation of the race. If, then, we desire to return to paganism, let us discard Christianity, and adopt that "culture" which, in the view of some, is" demanded by modern life."
We are thus prepared to state another and radical defect in the history before us; viz. the assumption that Rome was converted and Christianity propagated by natural agencies, and without any help from the miraculous or supernatural. Or, in other words, Mr. Lecky represents Christianity as respects to a higher level than any that had preceded it, I, at least, firmly believe." To what is this due? Lecky will tell us: "But theological ethics, though very important, form but one of the many and complex elements of its excellence. Mechanical inventions, the habits of industrialism, the discoveries of physical science, the improvements of government, the expansion of literature, the traditions of pagan antiquity, have all a distinguished place, which, the more fully its history is investigated, the more clearly two capital truths are disclosed. The first is, that the influence of theology having for centuries numbed and paralyzed the whole intellect of Christian Europe, the revival, which forms the starting-point of our modern civilization, was mainly due to the fact that two spheres of intellect still remained uncontrolled by the sceptre of Catholicism. The Pagan literature of antiquity and the Mahommedan schools of science, were the chief agencies, in resuscitating the dormant energies of Christendom. The second fact is, that for more than three centuries the decadence of theological influence has been one of the most invariable signs and measures of progress."