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community exists between the great body of nations to-day that was quite foreign to the states of antiquity. Such a bond of union as is supplied by a common Christian civilization was unknown to them. Had they remained intact, unfused, Christianity would have been obliged again and again to penetrate through the hard wall of a tenacious national spirit. Roman power set open doors before the advancing gospel. Its universal temporal rule prepared for the universal spiritual dominion of Christianity. A missionary activity like that of Paul, it has been well said, is inconceivable save upon the theatre of an empire like that of Rome.' Moreover, in proportion as national barriers disappeared, the conditions were made directly favorable to the reception of the monotheistic faith. In the view of polytheism, individual gods were, to a great extent, associated with individual nations. As these nations were absorbed into a common whole, they felt, of course, less occasion for asserting their respective deities. In proportion as the unity of the race was acknowleged, it was easy to acknowledge the Divine unity.

2. CULTURE. The culture within the Roman Empire most worthy of attention, most serviceable to Christianity, was Greek rather than Roman. Rome was more a representative of the will than of the intellect; her office was rather that of the lawgiver and the ruler than that of the teacher. Her strictly original contributions to polite literature and philosophy were of but moderate compass. At Rome, says Mommsen, nobody speculated except the money-changers. Nevertheless, it was no mean service which Rome performed for culture. If she did not create largely, she distributed widely. The versatile Greek had already carried his treasures into many lands; Rome caused those treasures to be scattered over a still broader field.

1 This is a truth which was not hid from the observation of early Christian writers. Origen, among others, taught in very explicit terms that the fusion of the nations into one monarchy was a providential preparation for the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. (Cont. Celsum, ii. 30.)

Among the contributions of Greek culture we notice,

(1) A language admirably adapted to the uses of Christianity. At the time the gospel began to be proclaimed, Greek approached the character of an universal speech. The Greeks were very early a colonizing people, and carried their language into various settlements, from Asia Minor to Spain. The conquests of Alexander spread the same language over a large section of the Asiatic Continent. It was extensively spoken in Pal. estine ; the disciples of Christ, very likely, had heard it from their childhood. In Egypt, especially at the great city of Alexandria, it was made the instrument of a varied, active, and highly celebrated scholarship. It found, after the Roman conquest of Greece, an open road to Rome. A multitude of Greek slaves diffused it far and wide among the principal households of Italy. Teachers, rhetoricians, and philosophers supplied also numerous agents for its introduction. Cicero could plead with entire sincerity in behalf of Archias : “Greek is read in almost all nations; Latin is confined by its own boundaries, which, of a truth, are narrow.”2 1 History of Rome, Book IV., chap. xii. ? Pro Archia poeta, chap. x.

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Probably the French language, at the era of its highest ascendency in Europe, was far less the medium of mercantile and polite intercourse than was the Greek in the Roman Empire in the age of the apostles. In almost every city the Greek-speaking evangelist could find listeners who would readily understand his proclamation. Nor was the Greek the special servant of Christianity merely in virtue of its universality: it was such in virtue, also, of its peculiar excellencies as a language. Without a rich and flexible medium, the new truths which Christianity was designed to teach could not have found suitable expression. The Greek language supplied such a medium. It was capable of expressing different shades of meaning with nice discrimination. It was comparatively rich in religious and ethical terms, and so was adapted to be the language of the NewTestament oracles. It was rich in philosophical terms, , and so was well suited to the uses of a fundamental theology.

(2) Elements more or less akin to the Christian system. “ Hellenism is as much a prodigy of beauty as Christianity is a prodigy of sanctity.”2 The ideals embraced by the two are different, but the very fact that both embrace high ideals establishes a certain affinity between them. High ideals cannot be antagonistic to each other. However it may be in other spheres, in the moral sphere the beautiful stands in close conjunction with the good ; indeed, the supremely beautiful is here identical with the good. A keen sense for the beautiful, therefore, carried into the sphere of moral

1 Compare Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity, chap. ii. 2 Renan, The Apostles, Intro.


thought, naturally brings forth products in which Christianity, as the system of the good or the holy, can take pleasure. The products are in full correspondence with the soil, when we find in the Greek poets, and especially in the philosophy of Plato, passages which express high and noble views upon man's moral relations. We are far from discovering, it is true, even in Platonism, the full Christian ideal, either as respects God or

For example, that principle of holy love which Christianity makes the crowning glory both of God and of man, the sum and source of moral excellence, was but dimly discerned by Plato; at least it does not receive an adequate prominence in his system. Still, Platonism embraced many lofty and healthful conceptions of the Godhead, and of man's nature and place in the universe. Historical proof that it possessed a certain kinship to Christianity is at hand in the fact that it served not a few inquiring minds as a stepping-stone to the faith of the gospel.

(3) A striking example of man's need of divine instruction and help. This negative contribution was of no small worth. The intellectual system of the Greeks was the highest triumph of the human mind in the ancient world. It was the supreme specimen of what the natural man may achieve. As such it served as a test of man's natural ability to give a satisfactory solution of the problems of life and destiny, and a satisfactory supply to spiritual needs. Had Greek wisdom accomplished this, then the human soul might have congratulated itself upon its ability to work out its own salvation. But it failed: it was able to meet suitably neither the questionings nor the moral needs of the

soul. Its best conclusions were too much of the nature of guesses, did not carry with them the requisite authority and assurance.

In this relative failure Greek wisdom published the need of something higher and more efficient than itself. The issue of its history re-enforced the suggestion of Plato, that a revelation must come from the Godhead to man if he is to be guided securely.' The gospel might indeed be repelled as foolishness in the first impulses of pride. But the need had been proved. The gospel stood over against a demonstrated, and in some measure a felt, need. There was an empty place in the human soul which it was suited to fill, and which it would be called to fill when it had broken down the bars of opposition by the proofs of its intrinsic virtue.

3. MORALS. — The age immediately preceding and following the birth of Christ affords a striking example of the difference between good moralizing and good morals. There was a plenty of the former. prevous era of classic antiquity had casuistry been so fully developed, the duties of men in all relations so elaborately specified. Many noble sentiments, many maxims worthy of a place in a hand-book of Christian precepts, found expression. Especially fruitful in this

In no

1 In the midst of a dialogue on the destiny of the soul, Simmias, after remarking to Socrates respecting the exceeding difficulty of reaching certainty on such subjects, is made to say of the investigator, “He should persevere until he has attained one of two things : either he should discover or learn the truth about them : or, if this be impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable of human notions, and let this be the raft upon which he sails through life, – not without risk, I admit, if he cannot find some word of God which will more surely and safely carry him.(Phædo, Jowett's translation.)

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