Champagny's Roman Empire
( Originally Published 1874 )
I owe my readers an apology for not having earlier invited their attention to the historical works of the Count de Champagny. They have for some years obtained a degree of popularity in France which would render any recommendation there quite needless. In England f have been surprised to find them unknown, not merely to persons of general intelligence, but to some whose attention has been specially directed to the Roman Empire. This is the more to be regretted because we have no work in our own language which exactly supplies their place ; neither is it at all likely that such a work will be written. We have, indeed, from Mr. Merivale an able, learned, and interesting history of the 'Romans under the Empire.' But no man whose eyes have not been opened by the gift of faith can fully under-stand the history of those centuries, of which the one great and distinguishing event was the fulfilment of that prophecy of our Divine Lord, 'The kingdom of Heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.' Mr. Merivale's tone, of course, is as different .as possible from that of Gibbon. Dr. Newman quotes in 'The The Church and the .Empires. Church of the Fathers,' if I remember right) a sentence from a distinguished Anglican, regretting that the best English writer upon ecclesiastical history should be an infidel. The fact is, that Gibbon's history is in great measure ecclesiastical because his hatred of Christianity made him instinctively feel its presence, even where it was not prominently put forward, as some people are conscious when a cat is hidden in the room. Mr. Merivale's attitude towards Christianity is as different as possible, and if he wrote an ecclesiastical history it would be a contrast to that of Gibbon. But his is not an ecclesiastical history. It is only when the Church is forced upon his attention that it is noticed at all. He represents a class of minds which I suppose hardly exists except in Protestant countries in our day I might probably have said, except in England. He believes in the truth of Christianity ; he would, no doubt, be shocked to hear it doubted, much more denied ; but he falls into the popular English notion, that, true as Christianity is, and important as it is in its own sphere, it is intended only for certain particular times and places. In fact, Christianity is a Sunday matter. And especially, when we read heathen histories of heathen times, and desire as much as possible to see things as they were seen by the contemporaries of Augustus or of Nero, a word about Christianity and the Christian Church would be as much out of place as if we were to fancy to ourselves Alexander the Great invading America and fighting with Montezuma (as poor Oliver Goldsmith was nearly betrayed into recording in his ' History of Greece'. Even under the Antonines Christianity is, in Mr. Merivale's view, very little more prominent. Hence, with one or two short, but, I doubt not, quite sincere recognitions of its truth, it is, as a general rule, simply ignored and forgotten in the greater part of his history.
Of course his explanation of this, to himself as well as to others, would be that he undertook to tell the story of the Roman Empire as it has been told to us by Tacitus, Suetonius, &c., and that if there was nothing in Christianity which arrested their attention, there could be nothing which he was at liberty to mention. This, however, is simply to mistake the duty of an historian. He has to tell what is true, and nothing else. But if events of the highest importance, destined to produce most momentous results upon the happiness and welfare of many nations, were really in progress in the country and age of which he is writing, and if he has any means of tracing their development, nothing could be more absurd than that he should pass them over without notice, merely because they worked so gradually and secretly as not to arrest, at the time, the attention even of keen observers. Christianity then claims the special attention of the historian of the Roman Empire, not merely because it is the truth, and alone discloses our relations with the unseen world, but even upon much lower grounds, because its progress (even had it been a merely human event) would have been by far the most momentous event of those times, and therefore the most proper subject of the historian, even if he were personally without religion. And this would be even more his duty if so important an event had been overlooked by contemporary heathen writers; for history is never more strictly in her proper task than when she is tracing to their earliest beginnings, events which have afterwards developed themselves into an importance as unforeseen as it is momentous.
Let me give an example of what I mean. The introduction of standing armies was unquestionably the most important political change in the history of modem Europe. When introduced in one nation, all were obliged to follow the example. This at once made it impossible to continue the system of government which prevailed everywhere during the middle ages. On the Continent it led to despotic government, in England to the supremacy of Parliament. It has introduced the system of great powers,' instead of that before existing, of a multitude of small states with the Holy Father for the arbiter of all. It threatens results still more important the absolute domination of two or three states, perhaps of one. Now Hallam seems to prove that this system was silently introduced by Charles VII. of France, when he was restoring some degree of order after the murderous devastation caused by the English wars. It can hardly be doubted that a contemporary Frenchman must have thought it far less important than the marriage of a daughter of France with a prince of the blood, or the wresting of some petty fortress from the English. But, great as this change was, incalculably greater was the change which was working unobserved and unremembered, in the Roman Empire, during the centuries of which the Count of Champagny and Mr. Merivale have written. This must be admitted even by unbelievers, for even they cannot shut their eyes to the fact that the spread of Christianity, however little they may Iove it, was at least the most important event in history. What M. Champagny then has done is to trace the progress and effects of this great event in its earlier stages ; while the fashion with historians has been to shut their eyes and turn away their thoughts from it altogether, until at last, in the time of Constantine and his successors, it forced itself upon them. Which of the two is most worthy of a philosopher I need hardly say, even if Christianity had been merely a human philosophy, and not, as it is, the one remedy revealed by God for the evils of this world, as well as the only hope and light for that which is still unseen.
I sincerely believe that this merit of the author (and a great merit it is) is, in fact, the main fault which has been found in him by Protestant readers and critics. The ' Saturday Review,' for instance, in reviewing the second of the three works before me (which relates the fall of Jerusalem), admits that M. de Champagny's ' narrative is spirited, his learning considerable, and his description of the Roman Empire and its several provinces generally faithful and picturesque,' This is high praise to be given from that quarter to a work zealously Catholic. His ' main blemishes,' adds the reviewer, are ' credulity and ultra-judicial zeal,' i.e. credulity as to the narrative of the martyrs ultra-judicial zeal in tracing the judgments of God, not a mere political catastrophe, in the great tragedy of Jewish history. The Count, he complains, 'is not content with descrying in events the swift or tardy justice of heaven. He traces it equally in their accessories and minor phenomena, and seats himself, like Minos and Rhadarnanthus in Plato's Republic, before the folding doors of Orchus, sending nations, principalities, and powers to the right or left, according to his own notions of the fitness of things. But it would be hard to persuade us that, in the first century of the Christian era, even Jerusalem was more wicked than Rome. To be consistent, the Count should doom both, or show reason why the former was annihilated and the latter permitted to oppress the earth for full two centuries longer. Then, in our opinion, he ascribes too much influence to the early workings of the leaven of Christianity. He magnifies Nero's persecution, in which it is doubtful whether the victims were singled out as Christians, and not rather taken up at random as turbulent Jews, &c.'
I have given this passage in full, from a desire to do justice to M. de Champagny quite as much as to his reviewer ; for I presume that when the 'Saturday Review,' highly commending the literary and historical merits of a book, finds nothing more than these as its blemishes, most English Catholics, and a very large proportion of English Protestants, will come to the conclusion that it is well worth their careful study : for, in truth, the complaint comes to this, that, while viewing the Roman Empire with the eyes of an historian and a philosopher, the author views it pre-eminently with the instincts of a Christian and a Catholic. Upon this charge, I must own myself unable to give M. de Champagny a verdict of ' not guilty.' Still the passage itself is remarkable, as an indication of the state of opinion and feeling spreading in England. The Count judges the nations 'according to his own notions of the fitness of things.' The writer, in more than one part of the same article, makes a rather prominent profession of writing as a Christian. Yet so much is he accustomed to regard all religious doctrines as the notions of this or that individual, that it did not even cross his mind that the Count believes and professes to judge, not by his own notions, but a divinely revealed rule. And then he cannot understand the peculiar guilt of Jerusalem. Is it possible that he has never read or heard the history of the Passion ; the cry of the mad populace, ' His blood be upon us and upon our children ;' or the prophecies of our Divine Lord, and His weeping over the city, while He foretold its desolation, expressly as the punishment of its rejection of Himself? I know not when I have met a more striking example of the pagan method of regarding and weighing the facts even of sacred history. Not that the writer means to be irreligious. Far from it. He even indulges in religious remarks himself. He says :
The catastrophe of the Hebrew nation must always be profoundly interesting to Christian readers, who in its fall behold the accomplishment of a train of prophecies, and in its errors an impressive lesson on pride, stubbornness, and bigotry.' Only he has so much accustomed himself to consider belief and disbelief as a legitimate exercise of private judgment, and a thing which it would be bigotry to praise or condemn, that he cannot bring himself to believe that the rejection of God made flesh, the clamorous cries for His crucifixion, and the denial of His authority, can really have brought down upon any people so terrible a judgment After all, these Chief Priests and Pharisees, at whose awful wickedness in rejecting the Christ of God Christians in all ages have shuddered with horror what were they (according to modern uncatholic notions) but ' reverend gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion,' and what else was their obstinacy except adherence to the ' religion by law established in their country ?
Of the three works before me, the first, ' The Caesars,' begins. with a rapid glance at the state of Rome and Italy, and their history during the period in which the old republic was breaking up (which the author fixes as commencing after the destruction of Carthage). In the second chapter he takes up the narrative from the birth of the great Dictator Julius, and carries it on to the death of Nero. This history occupies a little more than half the three volumes. It is followed by a 'picture of the Roman world,' which, to any thinking reader, will be by far the most interesting, as it certainly is the most original, part of the work. At the same time, some readers may consider it a blemish, in a work professedly a history, that it contains, perhaps, even more of reflections upon history, pictures of the times, &c, than of narrative. I do not accede to this censure. It means, after all, little more than this that M. de Champagny sets before us, not merely the emperors, their families, and their courts, but especially the nations, tribes, and individuals over whom they ruled. He had in fact much more right than Mr. Merivale to have taken the title ' The Romans under the Empire,' rather than ' The Caesars.' This is a great merit, the want of which our own age has especially blamed in the historians of past times. We complain that while they tell us in detail strange and grotesque stories of tyrants, some of which would almost seem to be more in their natural place in the ' Thousand and One Nights ' than in the annals of a great and grave people, they give us no means of judging what sort of lives were led by the mass of their subjects, how they spent their time, in what things they found their pleasure, to what businesses they devoted their energies, how they lived and how they died. These are the questions which M. de Champagny answers in the ' picture,' which occupies nearly half his work on the Caesars, and which is, in my judgment, by far the most interesting part of it, and I hardly know where I should point for one more interesting. At the same time, it is one of which it is not easy to give specimens, although I shall have to recur to many parts of it as I go on.
After ' The Caesars' carne ' Rome and Judaea.' This is a history of only six years. Its main interest, of course, is in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish worship and polity. Combined with this, however, is the contemporary history of Rome, which contains the strange military revolutions which followed the death of Nero.
It was a remarkable coincidence that while the Roman armies were already gathering in fatal circle round Jerusalem, destined, against the will of their commanders, to fulfil to the letter the prediction of our Divine Lord, and to consume with fire the 'holy and beautiful house' which was the glory of the Jewish nation, the only temple in the world without an idol, at that very moment the Capitol itself and the temple of Jupiter, which the Romans identified with the eternal majesty of Rome itself, should also have been consumed, in the short struggle between the supporters of Vitellius and Vespasian. It is impossible not to feel as if the Almighty Ruler of the world were teaching the nations that the old dispensations were to be swept away, and all things were now to become new.
Then follows what strikes me as one of the most interesting parts of this history the estimate of position of the Jewish people in the Roman Empire before the last fatal war. Even under the Republic, and still more under the Empire, they were the spoiled children of the Roman State. By Julius Caesar they were exempted from tribute in every seventh year, in which, by the law of Moses, the land was not to be cultivated. This is specially interesting, because, so far as I am aware, there is no positive testimony in the Old Testament to the actual observance of this law. Gibbon sneers at it as impossible. We must suppose either that at the time of the great Dictator it was observed more or less generally, or that he had so much reverence for the law of Moses as to make so very striking a recognition of it, even on a point as to which it was in practice obsolete. In either case, the fact is most remark-able. It was, however, but one among many. The author devotes a whole chapter (` Rome and Judea,' vol. i. chap. iv.) to the condition of the Jewish people before the reign of Nero. The effect of the evidence which he collects from many very different quarters will, I think, surprise even those who were before acquainted with most of the detached facts. The numbers of the Jewish people had long increased far beyond the capacities of their own land, even in its then fruitful state, of which in its present barren condition we can form a very imperfect idea. Everywhere they were found, and everywhere they were wealthy and powerful. In Jerusalem itself the greatest respect was paid by their Roman masters to the national religion, the bond and pledge of their distinct nationality.
In all parts of the world the Roman legions bore before them images of the emperors, to which idolatrous honours were paid. The orderly and conservative spirit of Rome forbade that the universal custom should anywhere be dispensed with. But into Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone, the legions were never permitted to enter without veiling them from the inhabitants of the holy city. Some pagans stealthily placed the image of Caesar in a synagogue, and it was removed by Caesar's representative. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin were placed at the entrance of the court of the Temple reserved to the Israelites, denouncing the penalty of death to any heathen who should trespass farther. The language of the two great conquering races, the language of empire, and the language of heathen philosophy, thus bowed down before the exclusive majesty of the Hebrew law. The Jews were even exempted from military service, that their scruples might not be offended by serving under the symbols of idolatry. The Roman State afforded its special protection to the transmission of gold from all parts of the Empire to the Temple of Jerusalem. Ever before the fall of the republic, a Roman magistrate in Asia had been impeached for having interfered with it. The irritable and proud conscience of the Jews obtained respect even for its scruples. Pilate once ventured to hang upon the walls of a palace some golden bucklers consecrated to Tiberius, and marked simply with his name. The Jews complained to the Emperor himself of this flattery of the Emperor, and Pilate was reprimanded.
The toleration was carried even to worship. Pompeius in the giddiness of victory had ventured to enter the sanctuary. But the sight of that shrine without an idol had checked him in wonder and reverence. He had respected the Temple, the city, the treasure, and had directed the priests to expiate the next day the profanation which he himself had thrown upon the sanctuary. And be it observed that Cicero, while pleading for FIaccus, although he attacks the Jews, because he was acting as the advocate of one of their enemies Cicero himself praises this moderation on the part of Pompeius. Others had been impressed with the same feeling of veneration. Hardly would a Roman in any official character so much as enter the court of the Temple, to which the Gentiles were admitted, without offering his adoration to the God of Israel. Agrippa, the minister of Augustus, while staying at Jerusalem, never let a day pass without visiting the Temple and making costly offerings. Livia, the consort of Augustus, gave cups and vases of gold. Augustus himself, though he commanded the members of his family to abstain from persona] worship, not only made similar offerings, but directed that a bull and two lambs should be offered daily at his cost and in his name to that unknown God of Jerusalem, with whose greatness he had been struck. This daily sacrifice, continued by his successors and celebrated by the Jews with pious zeal, was long the pledge of Roman toleration and of Jewish submission, the seal of friendship between Rorie and Jerusalem. —(Rome and Judcea, vol i. eh. iv.)
The very jokes of Horace and Cicero upon the Jews showed the reality and extent of their influence on Rome itself. In our own day, for instance, no man (even in Poland or Jamaica) would, even in satire, represent himself as refusing to enter upon a matter of business because it was the Jewish Sabbath. ' The Jews,' says our author, ' caused the lamentations of the Hebrew Scriptures to champagny's Roman Empire. 65 resound around the funeral pile of Cesar.' Everywhere they enjoyed the rights of citizenship. S. Paul's possession of the citizenship of Tarsus and of Rome itself was no rare privilege. In most at least of the Greek cities, they enjoyed it before the Roman conquest ; the author refers to authorities proving that this was the case at Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and other cities ; he adds, ' Pompeius, Caesar, Antonins, Augustus, Agrippa, in gratitude for their enthusiasm, or their services, maintained their liberties, confirmed their exemption from military service, protected the transmission of gold to the Temple, and caused their privileges, which the Greek cities were always tempted to forget, to be in-scribed in bronze.' Claudius published a decree, giving them, in all the cities of the Empire, the same privileges which they enjoyed at Alexandria. Above all, they possessed the same right of citizenship in Rome itself, and the number of Jewish citizens was so considerable that, by a special enactment, whenever the public distribution of corn (which formed so important a part of the privileges of the poorer citizens) took place upon the Sabbath, they were authorised to receive their share the day following. The fact is, that accustomed during many centuries to form a part of one or other great Empire, and placing their nationality in their religion rather than in their government, the Jews were perfectly prepared to yield a hearty support to the Roman conquerors, and wherever they were settled they came to be regarded, alike by the people and by the Romans them-selves, as a sort of garrison for Rome.
To complete the resemblance between the people of Israel now and then, the Jews, in the first century as well as the nineteenth, were the men to turn their liberty to the greatest advantage. In our own day we see what that race has become, which has hardly been naturalised in the states of Christendom for sixty years, and the position they have made for themselves, not only in finance, but in politics, in science, in literature. The Jewish race is certainly one of those most richly gifted by God ; for He has given it patience combined with boldness, ingenuity with energy, eloquence with finesse, sentiment with the pursuit of gain. It was then what it is now, only more entire and more near to the sources of inspiration. Then, as now, it knew how to use the liberties it had succeeded in obtaining.
In numbers the Jews were increasing, while the Greeks and Romans (by immorality and the exposure of infants) were rapidly declining in numbers. M. Champagny quotes the express testimony of Tacitus, 'They desire to increase their numbers. To kill any of their families is to them an abomination. They believe also that the souls of those killed in battle, or by the executioner, are eternal.. Hence they desire to become fathers.' The Jews in the Roman Empire the author calculates at eight or nine millions. What is more remarkable was the spread of their religion by proselytism. There was all over the earth a real famine of the knowledge of any true God_ This knowledge the Jews had, and although there is no reason to suppose that the desire to propagate it was widely spread among them, they could not prevent the light from being more or less seen : ' a city set upon a mountain cannot be hid.' The ' Acts of the Apostles' give us many indications of proselytes to the Law. The kings and nobles of Adiabene (a heathen dynasty which reigned to the east of the Tigris under the protection of Parthia) were converted to the Jewish religion, it is said, by the teaching of a Hebrew merchant, retained it for several generations, and sent aid to the defence of the sacred city and the Temple against Titus.
At Damascus almost all the Tyrian women followed the law of Israel.. Rome herself felt the attraction. Many men, many more women of Rome, converted in different degrees, some even so far as circumcision, observed either the fasts, the abstinences, or the Sabbaths. In Horace, Seneca, Persius, Tacitus, and JuvenaI, we find Rome teeming with these proselytes, the Sabbaths and fasts publicly observed, the feasts of the Jews known by everybody, lanterns lighted in the windows on the days of Jewish solemnities. Plutarch bears equally strong testimony to the notorious observance of the Jewish religion in the Greek cities. The description, 'a proselyte,' occurs in connection with the names of Roman women in the catacombs of the Jews at Rome. Dion, speaking of the Sabbath and the custom of dividing time by periods of seven clays, adds :—' The ancient Greeks, so far as I am aware, knew nothing of this usage. In our day it is familiar to all men, and especially to the Romans, with whom it has become one of the customs of their country.'
The author concludes that the Jews, before the destruction of their city, were much in their present situation, with the addition of a religious earnestness and zeal which they have now quite lost.
But our conception of the position of the Jewish people would be very incomplete unless we bore in mind what Jerusalem was in itself, and especially what it was to them. It was on April 9, A.D. 68, that Titus and his army came within sight of the city, and looked down on that glorious spectacle, by which, thirty years before, ` the King of Israel, who came in the name of the Lord,' had been moved to tears.
The country round Jerusalem had not then the aspect of desolation and barrenness which in our day goes to the heart of travellers, and has inspired so many beautiful and mournful words. Five consecutive centuries of habitation and cultivation had overcome the naturally rugged soil. The olive, the fig, the vine, were flourishing on every side. Water artificially distributed enriched a land naturally unproductive. Aqueducts and subterranean channels brought water to Jerusalem, which was never in want of it amid all the sufferings of the siege. In the midst of this rich landscape, across the precipitous ravine of Cedron, the eye rested on Jerusalem ; and the city, which was called by Pliny the most illustrious of the whole East, appeared encircled by a range of towers, which, being raised to a proportional height wherever the ground was lowest, appeared to be all on the same level, and encircled the city like a diadem.
But above this imposing crown of towers rose several pinnacles still more elevated. Sion, the city of David, which predominated over the whole city, dominated over in its turn by the three towers of Hippicos, Phasaël, and Mariamne, each of which, massy and glittering, seemed as if carved out of a single block of white marble. Somewhat nearer, to the left, was the tower of Antonia, the guardian over the temple. Further back, beyond the rising ground of Bezetha, which concealed the lower part of it, appeared the higher parts of the Temple, white as snow, except where its whiteness was relieved by plates of gold, and lifting to the sky the thousand pinnacles which crowned its summit. The city of David and of Solomon was not then the needy and mournful place which recalls to pilgrims the lamentations of Jeremias and the dolours of Calvary. It was a rich, strong, and powerful city. Agrippa had enlarged it almost by one half ; every one of the Herods had laboured to ornament it. Pilate had built aqueducts for it. The proselyte kings of Adiabene had palaces within its walls. The Cæsars had enriched it with gifts. At once wealthy and provident, encircled with towers and filled with palaces, its citadels were places of delight, its towers soaring two hundred feet in height (the battlements of which were soon to pour out on the assailants boiling oil) contained baths, reservoirs of water, banquet-halls, and lodging for hundreds of courtiers and slaves. The frame of mountains from among which it stood out set off the brilliancy of its white marble and gold. On the left, beyond the arid valley of the Cedron, rose the Mount of Olives, the dark foliage of which threw into relief the whiteness of the porticoes of the Temple. In the background, the more distant mountains of Tekoa, abrupt, rocky, grey, as travellers see them at this day—those, at least, are unchanged.'--(Rome and Judaea, vol. ii. c. xv.)
Elsewhere we hear that Jerusalem was considered to surpass Rome in beauty and riches as much as it was inferior in extent.
Caligula was said to have had his imagination early turned to the East by the descriptions of Jerusalem which he heard from the captive chief Agrippa, in the days when the fate of both equally was trembling in the balance, in the palace of the jealous Tiberius. The wealth of the city was so great that the value of gold and silver in Syria is said to have fallen by one-half when its spoils were dispersed by the victorious soldiers of Titus.
Well might Titus desire to preserve from destruction so noble an ornament of the Roman Empire ; but Jerusalem was doomed.
Her outward beauties, rich as they were, were but the faint reflection of her true dignity, as ' the city of the Great King.' This was lost on the day when her sons cried out, We have no king but Caesar !' Henceforth her outward beauty was like that which a corpse retains for a while, after the living spirit has departed from it, and now the time was corne that even this should pass away.
M. de Champagny very strikingly traces the connection, as natural cause and effect, between the rejection of the true Christ and the utter destruction of the city, temple, and polity of the Jews. It is impossible to consider the amount of the prosperity of the Jews under the Empire and of the solid ends to which they turned it, without astonishment that a people so highly favoured by the rulers of the world, and turning their favour to such good account, should have broken out into a hopeless rebellion, and persisted in it with an obstinacy which almost compelled the conqueror to push his victory to their titter destruction. It was the more marvellous, because (as I shall have another occasion to notice) at that very period other provinces, even when less favoured and with much less to lose, clung to the Empire from a sense of the benefits it secured to them. It is impossible to doubt that, but for their own utter madness, the Jews might have continued to enjoy, under the shadow of the Imperial rule, the high position which they had attained, and an ever-increasing prosperity. In one passage (if I am not mistaken) the author speaks as if there existed, even then, a dislike towards them greater perhaps than that of our own days. This I cannot imagine possible. That there would be a great jealousy of a people so separate from all others, so closely united among them-selves, and exciting so much envy by their exceptional prosperity, cannot be doubted. An able writer says, ' What is most hateful to a nation is another nation,' and the more the maxim is weighed the more its truth will be felt. But, to call out this hatred, the two nations must be in pretty close intercourse. This, I presume, has made France, in times past, ' the natural enemy' of England. This assuredly it is which is always endangering the good-will which for a thousand reasons ought to exist between England and her own flesh and blood in the United States. The danger in this last case would be far less if the two had not a conunon language. But while circumstances have impressed and are daily more deeply impressing upon the people of the States a distinct national character, their use of our language enables them to read day by day, from one end of the Union to the other, English newspapers and reviews which bring home to their feelings our distinct nationality. It is obvious at the same time how entirely wanting on this side the Atlantic is the animosity which so often shows itself on the other side. Perhaps it would not be so if American newspapers were as widely read here as English papers are in America. But I must return to the Jews. There were causes in plenty to make them more or less unpopular in the provincial cities, especially in Egypt and the East. But this unpopularity could hardly have been so great as that of the haughty Roman conquerors themselves. And except under some strange combination of circumstances (such as the madness of the unhappy youth Caligula) the Jews were certain of Roman protection for their persons, property, and privileges. Their unpopularity itself, therefore, was but a pledge for their continued fidelity to the Empire. How came it that they suffered themselves to forfeit the protection and to draw down upon themselves the full force of that arm irresistible by any earthly might ?
The answer to this question the author gives in a most interesting chapter (' Rome and Juda,' vol. i. chap. v.), in which he traces first - the well-known expectation prevailing among all nations, alike of the East and West, about the time of Augustus, that a great king and deliverer, a restorer of that golden age of which the poets had sung, was immediately about to appear.
Moreover, even among heathen nations, this general expectation was so specially connected with Jerusalem, that when Nero found Rome slipping out of his grasp he had been assured by his astrologers that he was destined to found a new empire at Jerusalem (` Caesars,' vol. ii. p. 233). Among the Jews alone this prophecy took a form distinct, definite, intelligible, for upon them alone the sun of divine prophecy had shone clearly out (like a gleam falling upon one spot of a clouded landscape), while the other nations only saw its obscure reflection. By them it was clearly under-stood that the times were fulfilled, the ages marked out by Daniel the Prophet had run their course, and the Prince of Peace was ready to be revealed, who was to unite all nations under his sceptre, but who was especially to be the King of Israel as well as the Son of David. The time carne, universal peace was at length established, a deep silence of expectation reigned over the whole world. Bossuet sums up the history of Augustus : ' Victorieux par mer et par terre, il ferme le Temple de Janus (A.U.C. 753). Tout l'univers vit en paix sous sa puissance, et Jésus-Christ vient au monde.' ' He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.' The ' time of visitation' passed by unknown to them. According to the prophecy of Malachias, ' The Lord whom they sought came suddenly to His temple,' and they knew Him not. He had come and gone, and they were still in expectation an expectation which like a maddening thirst grew daily more and more intolerable. For a while, indeed, they persuaded themselves that they had mistaken some detail in their calculation of the times defined by Daniel the Prophet, and that the time, instead of being gone by, was immediately to come. It is touching to read how they were compelled to abandon, one after another, each of these hopes. At last they could no longer doubt that the time was come. In every whistle of the breeze, in every light upon the sky, in every rumour upon the earth, they listened for, they looked out for, they heard, they saw, the coming Messias.
Then were fulfilled the words spoken in sorrow, and yet in condemnation, by our Divine Lord : `I have corne in the name of My Father, and they do not receive Me ; if another shall come in his own name, him they will receive.' Then, according to His prophecy, arose false Christs and false prophets, saying, ' I am He,' and all the policy of the chiefs of the nation failed to prevail with the multitude not to go after them. The intense pain of long-protracted disappointment necessarily resulting from the wilful blindness which had failed to distinguish the true King of Israel when they saw Him, goaded them on to insurrection and destruction. Even when Jerusalem was already encompassed with armies, when the Christian remnant, recognising the signs given them by their Lord, had already fled to the mountains, and had found shelter under the protection of Agrippa at Pella, it was the certainty that, let the years of Daniel be interpreted as they might, the time for their fulfilment must have arrived, that impelled the Jewish people to reject all the offers of Titus and to risk upon a fortune, humanly speaking, utterly desperate, not merely their lives and families, but what was to them dearer still, their holy city, the holy and beautiful house where their fathers had worshipped, and the polity of the once chosen people. Thus in God's righteous judgment did the very expectation of the Messias become the sting which urged madly on to ruin the people and city which had refused to acknowledge Him when He came unto them.
It is impossible to resist the thoughts which crowd upon the mind in contemplating this appalling catastrophe. The whole history of the world, no doubt, is that of man neglecting or throwing away callings and opportunities given to him by God. But I can hardly err in saying that no other instance of it has been so striking, so miserable. What was the part designed in the Divine purposes for Israel, if he had been true to his vocation ? Already, in spite of all his failings and unfaithfulness, he was, in the midst of the heathen world, a chosen witness to the existence, the unity, and the attributes of God_ Already his witness had been heard and weighed by thousands. If the Messias had not been rejected ; if even at the last moment, after the day of Pentecost, He had been acknowledged, not merely by the ' remnant,' but by the nation as a nation, the imagination strives in vain to paint to itself the blessings, both to Israel and to the world, which would have resulted. Here, surely, I may apply the words of S. Paul, ' If the loss of them was the reconciliation of the world, what would the receiving of them have been but life from the dead?' What would it have been if the synagogue in every city had been a pharos, 'shining as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life,' instead of the citadel, held by its most obstinate enemies ? And the same change would have averted the destruction of the city and nation. For the fanaticism which drew down upon them the avenging sword of Rome was excited, as we have seen, by the perpetually-disappointed expectation of the coming of the Messias. Nay, the causes of their unpopularity in the Empire would have been diminished almost indefinitely by the more amiable social qualities which their hearty acceptance of the true Christ would have developed ; while the fatal influence of false Christs would have been wholly prevented. I venture to think that M. de Champagny has been led to exaggerate the measure of their disfavour with other populations, owing to his knowledge of the hatred which has been felt towards them in Christian nations. It is needless to say that although in the middle ages every circumstance which had made them unpopular in the Greek and Roman cities existed in full, and even in in-creased form, the feeling towards them was caused, not by this, but by the recollection of their great national crime, which each succeeding generation of Jews seemed to continue and make its own, by its continued rejection of the true Christ. It is impossible to estimate the spiritual and temporal grandeur of the position which the nation would have occupied, had she but known the day of her visitation.
Miserable indeed it is to turn our eyes from that which we cannot doubt was the gracious purpose of God to the lot which she chose for herself. The events which led, step by step, to that awful catastrophe, are excellently described by M. de Champagny how the multitudes of the nation were collected into the holy city; how all the desires even of the heathen conqueror to save it were frustrated by the obstinacy and fanaticism of the contending factions ; how overwhelming was the destruction ; how the remnant was condemned, as if in insult, to pay to the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter the very offering, the didrachma, which the Jews had been privileged to send from all quarters of the earth to the shrine of the true God at Jerusalem ; how they were driven once and again into desperate attempts to rise ; and how each effort only sank them deeper. And then comes not merely the oppression of their enemies, but (as Moses had foretold) the last degradation of their own souls. Their temple and worship finally gone, the distinction of their priestly tribe forgotten, their religion had no longer either a reason for its existence, or a means to keep it alive. It was a dead tree. The people sank as much below the religious level of the nations among which they were dwelling, as their forefathers had been above that of the heathen nations. The twilight of Judaism had been a bright light when surrounded by the dense darkness of paganism. In the clear shining of Gospel light, it lay like a dark spot amid fresh snow.
But I must not longer dwell upon the two volumes ('Rome and Judaea') which give that thrilling episode of the history of the Roman Empire, the fall of Jerusalem. These are followed by three, on the ' Antonines,' in which, besides continuing the history of the Empire and the emperors for a further period of a hundred and eleven years, the author suggests numberless most interesting trains of thought, and especially that to which I referred at the opening of this chapter, the unseen and unrecognised influence of the Church upon the whole moral and social state of the world, even while the world was still heathen. It was especially to these three volumes, though by no means to the exclusion of the others, that a distinguished French writer referred when he wrote ' Le plus beau privilége des écrivains qui pensent, c'est de faire penser ceux qui les lisent. M. de Champagny fait penser.' Perhaps the most startling of his propositions is that more personal freedom was enjoyed by freemen under the Roman Empire than under any modern [Continental government. Yet he proves it. He naturally thinks chiefly of France, but I believe the other Continental nations are in the same condition.
We, the proud citizens of a parliamentary monarchy, who have made revolutions when we were called subjects subjects we were, and still are at every turn of our lives. We were and are unable to go from Paris to Neuilly ; or dine more than twenty together; or have in our portmanteau three copies of the same tract ; or lend a hook to a friend ; or put a patch of mortar upon our own house if it stands in a street ; or kill a partridge ; or plant a tree near a roadside ; or take coal out of our own land ; or teach three or four children to read ; or gather our neighbours for prayer; or have in our house an oratory [what constitutes an oratory ?]; or bleed a sick man ; or sell him a medicine ; or (in some countries) be married ; or do any of a thousand other things which it would fill volumes to enumerate without permission from the civil government. And this permission, we are carefully told, is always in its very nature subject to be recalled. Commonly, indeed, the government does not either authorise or forbid it tolerates. We live by toleration. Thanks to the merciful and indulgent toleration of the civil government, we are permitted (until we receive orders to the contrary) to be born, to have a home, a family, to bring up our children, to have a God, to have a religion. Only one event there is in human life over which the government has not authority. We die without requiring its permission, but we cannot be buried without it. At certain moments we are sovereign over certain great and public matters ; but in small matters of private life we are subjects, and much less than subjects. Unluckily, these small matters make up our lives, and these private matters are their most important events.
This passage describes, in very few words, the real difference between the English and Continental ideas of government. Every successive French government, old régime, republic, empire, monarchy of the Restoration, monarchy of July, second republic, second empire-all have been alike in this. What we mean by 'personal liberty ' has been unknown, and not even generally desired under any of them. This perpetual interference of the civil authority with every action of private life is maintained, I believe, under all Continental governments alike, chiefly because it increases the patronage of the government, by finding employment for thousands of petty functionaries. So far is this bad system carried, that, as a general rule, young men, instead of making a career for themselves, learn from their child-hood to look to government patronage for their support and advancement. In England. (as Mr. Göschen stated from the hustings at his late election) there is a perpetually increasing tendency, not on the part of government to interfere, but on the part of the people to call for its interference. Within reasonable limits, this cannot be avoided. In a highly complicated state of society like ours, it is no longer possible to maintain in all points the custom of our ancestors, who left everything to be done by unpaid local agents, selected by their neighbours. In London, for instance, we should be sorry to exchange the ` Peelers' for the old-fashioned constables and watchmen. But it is essential that we should observe and guard against the inevitable tendency of advancing civilisation to throw more and more power into the hands of the central government, and thus to substitute the perpetual interference of civil authorities for personal liberty and local self government. To this gradual increase of administrative interference M. de Champagny in a great degree attributes the decay of the Roman Empire. In its earlier days, even under Caligula and Nero (however the nobles of the city might suffer under the tyranny of a madman), the mass of the provincials and the humbler classes of freemen, even in Rome, were really free. And this liberty of the Empire, the author shows, was as important in preparing the way for the successful preaching of the Gospel as were the unity and universal peace, the effects of which have so often been traced. He says : 1-
A modern European, as soon as he leaves his home and begins to act, to think, or to live among his fellows, must assume that everything is forbidden which is not expressly authorised. Under the Roman Empire all that was not expressly forbidden was understood to be authorised. Above all, the intellectual liberty was entire. Every one talked, listened, gave and received information publicly, and as he pleased. Doctrines spread; schools raised themselves without the interference of the secular power, until it felt itself in danger, not from the general independence of thought (that misgiving had not yet been conceived), but from the special character of some teaching which arrested its attention. Even when the Imperial government resolved upon severity, its rigour might often be averted, sometimes even paralysed, by the municipal authority, which alone was on the spot and in activity in the interior of each great city. Thus the Christian teachers and apologists presented themselves as ' philosophers.' For, as a general rule, philosophers were at liberty to teach what they pleased_
This was the natural result of a state of society in which the national religion taught nothing, true or false. When a system which really exercised authority over conscience carne in conflict with it, then, and not before, the civil government took the alarm, and hence Christianity alone came, after a time, to be excepted from the general liberty allowed to all philosophies.
But this liberty was a happy accident, arising from circumstances, not grounded on principles; and hence, as the author shows, it was gradually diminished as the administration of the Roman Empire became more systematised, until, about a century after the Antonines, the prevalent system was that of 'a semi-modern monarchy.'
Nothing can more strongly confirm M. Charnpagny's opinion that the earlier Roman Empire was ` a federation of free nations under an absolute monarch' than the feeling with which, as a matter of fact, it was regarded by the conquered provinces. Gaul was conquered, after a desperate and heroic resistance, fifty years inc. How soon afterwards it was left practically without a con-trolling Roman force I do not know. Before the death of Nero (A.D.. 68) such had long been its natural condition. A small army on the north-eastern boundary repelled the wild and warlike German tribes ; but even this was composed of natives. In the civil war which followed, the mass of this force marched into Italy with Vitellius. A. few enterprising Gauls took the opportunity to restore the national independence. Even they, however, so far from proposing to abolish the Roman institutions, only wished to establish an independent empire in fact, to make Gaul, not Italy, the seat of the Roman Empire. Hence it seems to have been that, contrary to all precedent, the remainder of the legions was drawn into the scheme. For several months the whole province was literally without one Roman soldier. The provincials, left wholly to themselves, held a meeting of delegates from all the Gallic nations at Treves, and, after full discussion, determined (as it seems by an overwhelming majority) to continue subject to the Roman Empire.
And this was a country of free and brave warriors, conquered for the first time not a hundred and twenty years before.
Ireland has now been subject to the kings of England for about 70o years. If any conjuncture should draw out of it every British soldier except a very few of Irish origin, and if these should all be drawn into a movement for the independence of Ireland, is it likely that the representatives of the whole nation, meeting freely, and after full discussion, would resolve by a large majority that things should remain as they are ?
One would almost be tempted to doubt whether, in the art of government, England herself had not something to learn from Imperial Rome.
The author is specially interested in tracing the gradual unobserved action of the Church upon the worst evil of Roman society its slave system. As a matter of fact, all through the period of which the author treats, the position of the slave was gradually being changed for the better. In theory Aristotle had pronounced slavery an institution both natural and necessary ; Dion, a century after the Incarnation of our Blessed Lord, declared it to be unlawful. In law, Augustus had confirmed to the master the power of life and death ; Adrian deprived him of it, and Antoninus Pius went so far as to forbid by law even the ill-treatment of a slave. Marcus Aurelius even gave the slave in certain cases the right to demand his freedom.
Meanwhile the whole jurisprudence, contrary to the fundamental and universal law of slavery, inclined, timidly no doubt, to the acknowledgment of certain family ties between slaves. It did not absolutely forbid the separation of the wife from the husband, or of the children from their mother, for that would have been to overthrow the institution itself ; but it allowed it with manifest reluctance and difficulty. Men's habits and feelings underwent a similar change. Cicero conceals, as a humiliating weakness, tears shed at the death of one of his slaves. Pliny the younger deems it an honour to have wept for his. He boasts that he considered them 'his neighbours,' and treated them as his children. As a last indication of the same feeling, monuments were commonly erected by masters, slaves, and freedmen to each other, and the posthumous testimonies of their mutual affection are numerous among the inscriptions of tombs.
In this change the author traces the effect of the teaching of the Church even upon those who did not enter her pale. The Church had treated the institution of slavery, as well as that of arbitrary power in the monarch, With all her own supernatural wisdom. She had not denounced institutions which she found in universal possession, and to demolish which would have been to undermine the fabric of existing society without substituting for it anything better. What she did was the very reverse. Leaving the old institutions of the heathen world to themselves, she set herself to teach to every one of her members first principles utterly inconsistent with them. She taught, for instance, to every one, rich or poor, bond or free, the equality of all men before God, and without altering the legal relation of master and slave, even among her own members, by any general enactment, she carried out into full action this principle of equality in all her own dealings with individuals of both classes.
In the bosom of the Church, this equality was at once realised. Christianity left to the ' city of this world' the distinctions and relations upon which it depends. But the Church, the City of God, is independent of the city of this world, and orders matters without reference to the prejudices, perhaps unavoidable, upon which the human society is founded. Inside the Church, as in the sight of God, there is neither freeman nor slave, neither Greek nor barbarian ; the Roman knight, with his gold ring and his white toga, cannot call upon the simple labourer in a tunic to make way for him. The senator who is one of the ordinary faithful, will bow down before the slave 1 who becomes a bishop. The Christian hierarchy does not proclaim war against the civil hierarchy, but is separate and distinct from it. In it the poor and the noble, the Roman matron and the female slave, kneel side by side, pray together, exchange the 'kiss of peace,' call each other 'brother' and ' sister,' and, mingled upon a common level of blessedness and greatness by reason of the eminent dignity to which all of them alike are called, receive together the body and the blood of their God.
Then, just before they return to the life of the world, they are once more united by the ' Agape? What the Agape must have been, and what must have been the importance of its bearing upon Christian equality, has not been observed as it deserves. We are no longer engaged in acts of religion it is an action of domestic life ; it is the brotherly repast of a society like those which the Greek called ' Hetaeriae,' and the Roman 'Confraternities.' Only the communities of the Greeks and Romans admitted, as a general rule, only persons of the same social condition. Here, on the contrary, in direct opposition to the usages of the ancient world, is a brotherly feast of free and slaves, men and women, workmen and senators. The master sits side by side with the slave, whom he bought in the market for sixteen pounds sterling worse than that, side by side with the freedman whom he emancipated the day before worse than that, side by side with a poor 'hand' who never had the honour to be connected with him either as freedman or as slave. It is the custom to exclude all women from solemn feasts ; but at this not only women, but waiting-maids and sempstresses are admitted. To supply this feast, the bread eaten by the poor has been presented by the rich ; but the gift would not have been received unless the rich had consented to eat it in common with the poor if they had not added the alms of their society to the alms of their bread. We find from S. Paul that reluctance was sometimes felt upon this point ; that there was sometimes a desire to take the ' Agape' apart ; that some of the rich would have liked to have luxuries in a separate corner, and have left black bread in another corner to the poor. But of this S. Paul would not so much as hear. He maintained this singular institution of the ' Agape' strictly on the principle of equality, community, and fraternity. Thus might be said of the ' Agape' what was said of a feast of a widely different degree of holiness and majesty, ' We are all one body, for we are all partakers of one bread.'
Year after year, throughout their whole lives, during several generations, did these practices form the habitual custom of many thousand Romans, men and women, among whom many were rich and noble, but many more were poor or slaves. It was not in the nature of things that, by degrees, some whisper of what was thus going on close to them, among their own neighbours, friends, and kindred, should not reach the ears even of the heathen. Even after the original security of the Church had been broken by the persecutions of Nero, she often enjoyed peace for many years together. During such times, and (we may be sure) still more when any new persecution was beginning after a long intermission, the peculiar doctrines and practices of the Christians must have been the talk of ten thousand assemblies and domestic circles. They must have attracted the same sort of attention which we know as a matter of fact had, long before, been given to the customs of the Jews. They must have been criticised, defended, laughed at, and praised by thousands. No doubt, the wildest accounts would be given of them (this we know, from the writings of the apologists, actually was the case), yet they could hardly be more misunderstood or more misrepresented than the doctrines and practices of Catholics have been in our memory, and, indeed, still are, in London at this day. Under these circumstances, it is hardly conceivable that the feelings and customs of Christians about slaves should not, more or less, become known in general society. Here, then, we have a cause strong enough gradually to affect the thoughts and conduct of others ; for truth needs only to be set before men, and it will commend itself to them. Not that they always act upon it. That, unhappily, is too often prevented by the corruption of their wills ; but on the whole they will approve it, and, when not under special temptation, they are likely by degrees to imitate, as far as they can without inconvenience, those who do act upon it. Just such was the imperfect imitation in the Roman Empire of the Christian practice with regard to slaves. No other account which can be given in any degree explains the unquestionable fact of such a change for the better as actually took place. Here was a cause which we know to have been in operation. Its natural effect would be exactly what we know actually happened ; under these circumstances, I do not see how anything except obstinate prejudice can make any man hesitate to believe that the silent influence of Christianity was the real cause of the improvement in the law and practice of slavery under the Antonines. It is what Bacon would call the test of the vera causa.
But there is an effect of slavery more fatal, perhaps, to a State than even its effect upon the master or upon the slave. This is its effect on the mass of those too poor to possess slaves. Wherever slaves are numerous, labour becomes a disgrace to freemen, however poor, as being the badge of a servile condition. This fatal social poison has worked alike in the ancient and the modern world and not least at Rome. The agricultural labour which had once been the honourable employment of consuls and dictators, had now been turned over to ' fettered limbs and branded faces.' This evil, however, the Church met as directly as the other. The easy manumission of slaves was part of the Roman system. The Church did not command it, but unquestionably, in practice, encouraged it. It is plain, therefore, that besides masters and slaves, she could not fail to contain a large multitude of poor freemen. M. de Champagny paints most powerfully how she would not only attract many already poor, but how the fact of' conversion would make poor many who before their conversion were well provided for. (` Antonins,' vol. ii. p. 156.) There were multitudes who had no alternative but either to labour hard for their daily bread, or else to obtain it by falling back into heathen rites or heathen morals. Something very similar is continually seen among ourselves, among converts of a class somewhat higher. At Rome, besides many slaves ,set free by Christian masters for the love of Christ, there were many free men and women escaped from the service of the temples, the circus or the theatre, the praetorium or the basilica, or from ways of life still more openly immoral. For the words of our blessed Lord to the proud Pharisees were fulfilled to the letter : ' The publicans and the harlots enter into the kingdom of God before you. All these had been arrested, instructed, regenerated ; but they had still to be fed. And how could this be done ? Only by their being taught to imitate Him who toiled for His daily bread in the workshop of S. Joseph at Nazareth. 'The mass of the liberal professions were difficult, if not impossible, to a Christian.' This the author shows at length. Either, then, they must be handicrafts ; or they must be supported by the alms of the Church; or they must fall back into heathenism; or, finally, they must starve. It was under these circumstances that S. Paul laid down the rule that ' if any man would not work, neither should he eat,' and admonished those who desired to live in idleness, 'to work quietly and eat their own bread.'
Moreover, the labour of a Christian had a value, which heathen labour, even if it could be obtained, had not.
The one (says the author) was enervated by debauchery, the other purified by fasting and strengthened by continence. The one smarted under the contempt which, in heathen society, attached to manual labour. Under a sense of disgrace, by stealth, blushing at his disparagement of himself, he performed the servile work to which his poverty condemned him. The other knew, indeed, that it was as a penalty that he was condemned to labour ; but it was a penalty imposed upon him in common with the whole human race ; and he felt that the man who accepted this necessity bravely, humbly, cheerfully, found in it not shame but honour. Bishops, saints, martyrs, apostles a God Himself had accompanied or gone before him in his toil. The one, by reason of the contempt which pressed upon him, found himself deprived of assistance, consolation, advice, credit ; the other, free in the bosom of the Church from this contemptuous prejudice, and to whom the Church gave the rich, the learned, the senator, as his companions at table, his friends, his brethren, could talk with them, in the brotherly intercourse of the ' Agape,' over the necessities of his toil and the wants of his family ; could take counsel from their superior education, be encouraged by their friendship, be even aided by their denarii. ' From him that would borrow of thee,' said the Gospel, ' turn not thou away.' Would it be possible to refuse a few denarii for the repair of a broken tool, or the purchase of the raw material of his manufacture to the brother who had just shared with you the cup of the Agape, and to whom, in the Holy Mysteries, you had just given the kiss of peace? Capital and industry the two grand personages of the modern social drama the one with his toga, his gold ring, and his white hands, the other with simple tunic and horny hands, met and embraced, and dipped their hands into the same dish, in the Agape, and contracted an alliance such as the ancient world had never known. In one word, modern industry, with its thousand productive schemes for bringing together capital and industry, was all in its germ in the Agape, and in the workshop of the Christian (p. 139).
My spac forbids me to follow M. de Champagny farther, and trace the effects of Christianity upon a world which was not yet aware whence it had borrowed its new principles, as they showed them-selves in private life, the relations of husband and wife, of father and children, and of rich and poor. That such an effect should have been produced was to be expected, for the moral and social principles which Christianity enunciates, high and holy as they are, are such as man's natural reason, if it would not have discovered them, neartily accepts and embraces when proposed to it. Passion, too often carries him away in practice ; but his 'inward man delights in the law of God,' and so would it surely be with the higher mysteries of the faith as soon as they are declared, if man's heart were not perverted.
And this leads me to believe that even in countries which have once been Catholic, and have unhappily forgotten their old faith, there will generally be left behind it a residue of moral and social principles which men would never have discovered for themselves, although, having once learned them, they call them natural principles ; as, indeed, they are in this important sense, that the natural conscience receives and bears witness to them. For instance, has the world ever seen a civilised country which was never Christian and was free from the institution of slavery? In our day it is denounced even by men who avowedly reject Christianity ; but I believe that, had Christianity been unknown, the whole civilised world would now, as much as in the days of Aristotle, have agreed in considering it natural and indispensable. There are aspects in which this thought is encouraging Christendom, or at least Christian nations, may sink deep, but, except in moments of frenzy (like that of Paris in 1793), they are hardly likely to sink so low as civilised nations before our Blessed Lord came in the flesh. Individual Christians may, by rejecting greater light, be far more guilty than individual heathens ; but nations can hardly again be covered by darkness so gross. This is in some degree a consolation under the miserable fact to which it is hardly possible for a thinking man to shut his eyes. Modem Europe has long been becoming, in many important particulars, more and more like the heathen Roman Empire.
To revert to one point of this daily increasing resemblance. The time which has passed since standing armies were introduced into Christian Europe has been (compared with the life of nations) very short. In England, the system was quite in its infancy under William III., on the Continent at the era of Charles V. and Francis I. The momentous political changes which it has already effected I have very briefly enumerated. What more is it destined to work? At Rome the same system can hardly be said to have existed before the era of Sulla and Pompeius. In the next gene-ration it had swept away the ancient republic, and some generations later it established the principle that the government was to be administered, not by the Senate any more than by the populace, but by the creatures of the army. In France I can hardly wonder that the events which have marked the last few years have led thoughtful men especially to turn their eyes to the Roman Empire, and to consider how the evil of the military system of ancient Rome may be averted from modern Europe. This tendency has, no doubt, been greatly increased by the systematic repression of political opinion, which is the less excusable because it is combined with an extreme licence in the avowal and diffusion of such as are only unbelieving and anti-Christian. Men who are not allowed to say what they think of France under Napoleon will naturally try how far they can suggest it by speaking of Rome under the Caesars. It is impossible, I think, to read the reviews and magazines published in France, and even many grave books on ancient history, without feeling that this necessity of saying in a parable what cannot be said openly has been a serious injury to history.
But even where this does not exist, it is evident, and it is unavoidable, that the history of the ancient empire must have an interest for men of our generation which it had not for their grandfathers. While the ancient European dynasties were still ruling, more or less, on the ancient principles, the history of the fall of the Roman republic and of the early Caesars seemed so strange to many men that they could hardly fancy the events to have happened in this same world of theirs and ours. In our day no man can write or even read the history of the Roman Empire without being struck with parallels in the history of the European, and especially the French, revolutions. Thus M. de Champagny (who is, I think, quite free from the desire to make ancient history speak of modern politics whether it will or not) says the fall of Sejanus was but an anticipation of the 9th Thermidor. But the resemblance by which he is most painfully impressed, and which has struck thinking men of the most widely different views, is that for many years past the public policy of all the European nations has fallen back upon heathen principles. If there are those who doubt this, it must be because they identify heathenism with idols, temples. and the like, which have Iittle attraction for modern Europeans. But these things had already lost their power over men before heathen society ' the City of the World,' as S. Augustine calls it had come to its height and perfection. M. de Champagny has a very interesting chapter, which he calls ` One Word on Modern Paganism.' He makes its essence to consist in the adoption of two principles, upon which, he truly says,
Roman antiquity founded its whole social system. [These are : first,] that the duty of man to the community of which he is a member, and especially towards the nation, is superior to all other duties ; and next (which is the converse of this) that the society to which a man belongs has an absolute right over him. [Upon this he remarks that] the Christian religion lays down exactly the opposite ; the great duty, the great foundation of the social order, is, not the love of an abstraction which is called our country, but the love of a real being, called our neighbour. Patriotism is not condemned but transformed by Christianity. It is one of the shades of this love. Christian patriotism is nothing more than a special love for certain men, in close relations with whom it has pleased God that we should dwell, a law holy and venerable, but still a secondary law, a mere fragment of 5. superior law which includes it, and is supreme over it. The country, in fact, under the Christian law, is no longer an abstract mysterious being, something superior to man and approaching Divinity ; it is simply an aggregate of men, and as such subject to all the same obligations with the human being himself, to all the rules of justice and charity towards all men, whether citizens or foreigners, friends or enemies.
Hence (he adds) the society has duties towards the foreigner, and no society, race, tribe, caste, or nation may bear an exclusive love to itself, or seek its own welfare by means of the sufferings of others. National hatred, the oppression of one race by another, the spirit (I do not say of aristocracy, but) of caste, which leads one race to claim a radical superiority to another, these are things purely pagan and rejected by Christianity ; they transgress the great law of justice and charity, they break Christian unity, they spring from a forgetfulness of the double fraternity of man in Adam and in Christ.
In like manner, under the Christian law, the community has its duties towards each of its individual members as much as each member has duties to it. Under the Christian law no power is absolute, no authority is really without limits, because none dare overstep the boundary imposed upon it by the conscience enlightened by the faith ; and these bounds are much narrower than people fancy. Christianity accepts equally all forms of government, whether kingly or republican, aristocratic or popular; whether limited by positive laws or only by the power of custom, by conditions made with men, or only by the duties imposed by the laws of God the power is still equally the ordinance of God, not in its form (which is a thing of human origin and variable), but in its essence, which is necessary to communities. Christianity, indifferent to political squabbles, which are often very vain and wretched, accepts all equally, and condemns nothing but despotism, if by despotism is meant, what ought to be meant, tower unconnected with duty, an authority which believes that it has all rights over men, even the rights refused it by the law of nature and by the revealed laws of God . . .
Thus have perished the two fundamental principles of heathen society nationalism abroad and despotism at home .. .
Modern paganism, in direct opposition to Christian faith, has moulded its politics like those of ancient paganism. The City it has macle its temple. It once more deifies the public interests. Of the fiction called one's country it has made its God.
Next he goes on to show that all resistance to the Church (for instance in the eleventh, twelfth, and fourteenth centuries) has taken this form. The Protestant Reformation made gods of kings. Even in Catholic nations monarchs adopted a principle so flattering to them. Then came the Great Revolution. Its fundamental delusion was the same into which the kings of the eighteenth century had fallen that man's highest duty is to the community, and that the nation has no duties either towards its own members or its subjects. In a word, it was the rejection of the authority of God and of His Church. The fullest display of this principle was in 1793 ; but 1793 has passed away, and we still maintain the same principles. He concludes :
It seems to me that we are living in the times of Augustus. We are coming out of a revolutionary crisis, as the Romans were then coming out of the crisis of the civil wars . . But Augustus, without either knowing or desiring it, was preparing Tiberius.
Moreover, the tyranny of the Caesars had one special characteristic, in which every modern tyranny, whether it will or no, is forced to resemble it. It was brought into collision with a power with which no former tyranny had had to do the power of conscience, the principle openly avowed in direct opposition to its unlimited claims—' We ought to obey God rather than you!
I have analysed the more carefully this remarkable chapter, l (which I ought to mention ends with a strong expression of the author's hopes, in spite of all threatening appearances), because, on the one hand, I consider the general truth and importance of its argument unquestionable ; and yet I feel, on the other hand, that there are in my own country some distinctions, the neglect of which might lead superficial observers to doubt or deny it. Wherever a ' strong government' is the taste and custom of the nation (as it is eminently in France), the rejection of the authority of the Church leaves the national government unlimited and irresponsible. It takes away at a stroke the only authority to which kings or rulers were before amenable. This is clear. In England, in our own day, it is, I need hardly say, by no means the national habit to assume that anything is right because it is done by the English government. It would, therefore, seem absurd to say that by taking away the control of the Church we have put the English government in the place of God. When the change of religion first took place, such was notoriously the case, and Wolsey, after his fall, while surrendering into the hands of the tyrant all he had, had but too much reason to beseech him to remember ' that there is both a heaven and a hell.' Perhaps his conscience told him that he had neglected to impress the lesson, as he ought, in the time of his court favour. Unhappily for Henry VIII., he had those around him whose interest it was to make him forget it, or at least to persuade him that kings need think nothing about hell. But worship of the monarch, like that of Cranmer, did not suit the national taste, and circumstances have long since abolished it. Still, although the idol has been changed, the idolatry continues. It is evident that the will of the nation and the nation itself, much more than the national government, is the especial idol of Englishmen. And yet even this seems to me less characteristic of England than of some other nations. For instance, every Frenchman is at once set on fire when he hears the very words `the glory of France ;' but I much doubt whether speeches about the ` glory of England,' continued for a year together, would reconcile any considerable number of Englishmen to a penny additional on the income-tax. The annexation of a new province to France by any means. how-ever dishonourable, throws almost every Frenchman of every class and every party into a thrill of ecstasy which an Englishman is incapable of feeling about any public event. No less a man than De Tocqueville (unless I am mistaken) deliberately declared that he believed the annexation of Belgium would be most unjust ; but that if Napoleon III. should commit that injustice, he would acquire such a claim to the gratitude of every Frenchman, that he for one would never afterwards oppose his dynasty. I believe the feeling is universal among Frenchmen, with the exception of a handful of men whose love even to France is overpowered by their love of the liberty of the Church, to which they believe that the annexation of Belgium would be a serious blow. All honour to men who, though French, yet care more for the glory of God than even for what is called the glory of France.' All honour also to M. de Champagny, who has ventured so boldly to assail the spirit of pagan patriotism, which is the idol of his country.
In England, unless I deceive myself, not only is the national government more the servant of the nation than its idol (and the Englishman is willing enough to 'wallop his own nigger'); but the worship of the patrie itself is much less general and enthusiastic than it is in France. No one feels even the will of the nation to be his highest law. Very few would feel any scruple about breaking a law when it can be done safely. Perhaps no one would scruple to abandon his nationality altogether, and be-come a citizen of some foreign state, however the step might be forbidden by law and by the national feeling if it suited his own Interests.
And yet heathen principles of government are at least as strong in England as in France. Individuals, no doubt, there are, in some numbers (even out of the Church), who sincerely endeavour to regulate their own conduct by the rules and motives laid down by the Christian religion, as they understand them. But no one, I presume, would say that any attempt is made to refer to or recognise those rules in the management of public affairs ; very few, probably, would think it either desirable or possible to do so. Let me illustrate my meaning by an example. Mr. Gladstone is notoriously a most sincere believer in the Christian religion as understood by High Anglicans. He firmly believes, therefore, not only that all men share one common nature, but also that that nature has been assumed, once and for ever, by the Eternal Son of God, who, in it, has sat down on the right hand of the Father. And yet it is certain that, if in a debate (say on the late Jamaica affair), Mr. Gladstone were to open or wind up his speech by laying down that stupendous fact as the basis of all he said, he would most materially injure, perhaps destroy, the eminent political station which he has earned by his unrivalled powers and high character. His speech would be universally pronounced either a sign of temporary insanity or (worse still) of the most wretched taste and fanaticism. Now, this is the more remarkable, because no one (not even an infidel) will deny that the awful fact has the most direct and important bearing upon the subject ; for the duties of a Christian to men of widely different races immediately result from it. It may be said that such a speech would be out of place, because there are Jews in the House of Commons. But, however plausible an explanation, that is certainly not the real reason of the feeling, because it would have been quite as strong before the first Jew was admitted. The simple truth is, that in England all religious doctrines are recognised as ' open questions,' upon which each individual has a right to his own opinions, and as to which no one has any right to assume that his own convictions, however strong, are unquestionably true. What makes this plain is that there are other principles which any man may, without offence, take for granted, although they are not universally held ; because they are admitted by the nearly universal consent of the English people. For instance, there may be in the House of Commons some two or three men who prefer a republican to a monarchical form of govern molt; yet no man would be blamed who publicly grounded his vote upon any question upon his conviction that an opposite course would be inconsistent with monarchy. For (while individuals are free to hold the opposite opinion) the maintenance of the monarchy is one of the things which the mass of the nation considers necessary and fundamental. Again, we all know that to assume in the same manner the truth of the great Christian doctrines would formerly have seemed quite natural. Under Henry V., for instance, or Edward III., fine specimens of English character, such a thing would surprise no one, whether in a speech, an act of Parliament, or any other public paper.
'Since this was written I have quite accidentally fallen in with an instance which illustrates my position. It is a pardon (in Rymer) to four men condemned for high treason. The preamble is as follows :
'Reducentes in memoriam qualiter supremus Judex (cujus verba talker testificatur Scriptura Sacra Mihi Vindictam et ego retribuam) nonnullas Personas nobis infideles tetigit et percussit anno ultimatim elapso.
`Qualiter edam Sacrosancto Die Venetia., qui jam instat, Salvator Noster Jesus Christus gloriosarn Passionem suam usque ad Mortem pro salute nostra pertulit et sustinuit.
' Et qualiter a Cunabilis nostris, singularem et internam Devotionem ad Beatissirnam, gloriosissinrarn et intenieratam Virginal). Mariam Dei Genitricem hucusque gessimus et habuiulus et ad pnesens gerimus et habemus, de cujus.
It is plain, then, that the principle upon which public affairs are now regulated is this That we may assume that Christianity is true, but that no man has a right to assume that any one particular doctrine or fact is a necessary part of Christianity, that being merely a matter of private opinion. He may profess to support the Established Church, because that is a political institution, but still he must not allege, as the ground of his support, that its doctrines are true; for who can say (the nation feels) whether they are or not it is a matter of opinion_
And yet some fundamental principle there must be, which English statesmen are obliged to respect. If it is not any one Christian doctrine or rule, nor yet the will of the government, or even of the nation, what is it? I should be inclined to answer in one word that it is 'Civilisation.' No public man among us must act except on ' principles becoming a civilised nation.' Civilisation is here taken in its ordinary sense. There are some, indeed, who say that it implies the highest Christian principles. Such is not the sense in which the word is commonly used. For instance, no man would say that the Romans under Augustus, or the Athenians under Pericles, were uncivilised. What the word really expresses is the whole of that collection of qualities, moral, social, intellectual, &c., which result from an habitual life in a
Assumptione magna et solemnis Festivitas in universali Sacrosanctâ Ecclesiâ Catholicâ, pnesertim et praecipue et singulari devotione recommendanda in Devotissirno Regali nostro Collegio Beatae Marisa de Eton juxta Wyndesoram infra breve celebrabitur.'
He adds, especially, that Eugenius IV. and Nicholas, the reigning Pope, had granted the college great indulgences, and then continues: ' Considerantesque nedum praemissa, verum etiam multimodas alias glatias Nobis per Altissimum anno ultimatim elapso exhibitas et ostenras.' Sharon Turner, I find, mentions the Feast of the Assumption, the Friday, the text of Scripture, and the ' multimodas gratias,' as 'four strange reasons.' He does not allude to the other reasons, I shrewdly suspect, because he could make neither head nor- tail of them. For what had indulgences to do with a pardon? My point, however, is that no one at the time would think these strange reasons civil community, and which qualify men for such a life.It does, therefore, imply many qualities which Christianity immediately tends to produce justice, mercy, courtesy, habitual consideration for the wishes and feelings of others, &c. But these qualities (although they can hardly be formed in their perfection except by Christianity) may in a great degree be produced, and still more may be admirably simulated, by the habits and intercourse of civil life. But civilisation implies many other things which Christianity, at the utmost, only indirectly tends to produce such. for instance, as financial, political, and social science; the improvement both of the fine and, much more, of the mechanical arts ; and the subjection of the material world, animals, vegetables, metals, &c., to the service of man. Although, therefore, the perfection of civilisation more or less implies the presence of some very high qualities, which can only be matured by Christianity, yet (inasmuch as the effects which these qualities produce upon society may, in a great measure, be obtained by other means namely, by the training to be derived from civil and political life), and as many other things enter into the idea of civilisation with which neither Christianity nor moral perfection has any immediate connection, we cannot deny that civilisation, in a very real sense, may exist without Christianity ; nay, more, that a heathen community may, accidentally, be more civilised than some Christian communities. Indeed, it will hardly be doubted that one of the most important steps in civilisation is the separation of military from civil life and duties. The English people, for instance, are at this moment better qualified for civil life than they would be if every man among us were at all times liable to be called upon for military service, and if no man (except a priest) could by possibility attain any high position in the State or the Law without actually spending a large portion of his life in warfare. Mr. Gladstone, for instance, or Sir Roundell Palmer, could hardly discharge the duties of their offices as they do, if they were obliged, as a matter of course, to lead in person some military expedition or other every summer, and to spend most part of it in the camp. Yet this has generally been the condition of public men in Christian nations ; while there have been heathen countries entirely exempt from it.
I may conclude, then, that civilisation in .its true sense, and much more as it is and will always be understood by the majority of men, does not necessarily imply either Christianity or even the highest moral qualities, and that it gives a proportionable importance to intellectual cultivation, and still more to the studies and arts which minister to material prosperity, which is quite inconsistent with the first principles of Christianity.
And if so, then a nation which makes civilisation, and not revealed religion, its practical rule in the administration of public affairs in fact, makes material prosperity the chief good, and, by so doing, really and truly, so far, falls back into heathenism. I cannot imagine that any thinking man can deny this; or, again, that he can doubt that the public affairs of our own country are thus administered. One night's attendance upon the House of Commons, or the study of one number of the ' Times,' would surely convince him.
But I must go much farther than this. It is plain that thinking men, who themselves accept, without scruple or hesitation, what I have called the principles of modern heathenism, as the only right and safe principles, are forcibly struck by the fact, that (however true they may be) they are in sharp contrast and opposition to the fundamental principles of Christianity.
In proof of this consciousness I would refer to the ' Saturday Review.' There is, perhaps, no journal which so accurately and fairly represents the political, social, and moral standard of educated Englishmen in our own day. It is written with singular ability and moderation, and (appearing weekly) it is free from the necessity of hasty writing, which is a condition of daily newspapers. Moreover, it would be quite unfair to call it an anti-religious paper.
A few months ago appeared an article on ' The Dead Virtues.' It mentioned especially purity, poverty, and (if I remember right) humility. It showed at some length that they have no place in the modern system of modern Englishmen; nay, that poverty especially is admitted to be an impediment to religious improvement, and it contrasted with these facts the well-known texts of the New Testament on the subject. The writer did not attempt to reconcile or remove the contradiction, but merely thought it worth noticing as a fact.
In a remarkable article on the late Lord EIgin a parallel was drawn between him and Agricola. It was suggested that the greater fame of Agricola has come in great degree from the accident of his having Tacitus for his biographer ; and the author went on to say (as a general remark) that he had been much struck by the remarkable resemblance of the great English governors in India and elsewhere to the great heathen statesmen and administrators.
Nearly at the same time there was an article on the resemblance of the Sadducees among the Jews to educated English-men, and (if I remember right, it was said in so many words) to Saturday Reviewers. This bears closely upon my argument, because the Sadducees were clearly the heathenising party among the Jews. The writer pleaded that our Divine Lord, although stating that the Sadducees had ' erred,' reserved for the Pharisees all His most severe censures. This seems in fact to have been because the special objects of His preaching were those ' who sat in Moses' seat,' i.e, the religious leaders of the Jewish people. The Sadducees were rather a heathen than a Jewish school.
In commenting upon the funeral sermon of the Dean of Westminster upon Lord Palmerston, whom the same paper especially commended as being strictly and eminently the English statesman, and therefore especially qualified for the place he had occupied, it went on to admit the difficulty of Dean Stanley's task, on the ground that it was ' not easy in any way to make of Lord Palmerston exactly a Christian hero.'
Lastly, a few weeks back there was an able article on the government of the coloured races in our colonial and foreign dominions. It was occasioned by the Jamaica affair, and kid down as a principle, that if we are to retain India or to keep the peace in colonies where the negroes are numerous, we must act upon principles precisely opposite to those laid down in the Gospels.
I might greatly have strengthened my argument, had space allowed, by quoting the ipsissima verba of these articles, and I doubt not I could with a very little trouble have found many more, bearing perhaps even more directly upon the subject. Those I have enumerated have all appeared within the last few months, and are such as I happen to remember without having the paper at hand. They are enough to prove my position, that thoughtful men, writing in the spirit of the day, are struck with the opposition between their own principles and those of the Gospel. I can but repeat M. de Champagny's account of the matter. The principles of heathenism are merely those of nature. When the supernatural is displaced, they resume possession of themselves. The misery of the heathen world, (besides the lack of Christian graces), was that it was without fixed principles, without unquestionable facts, with regard to the moral and religious world. There, all was uncertainty and dispute, while material objects, (let philosophers reason how they would), were ever close about men and pressing to obtain full dominion. With the mass of men, certain and pressing things carry the day against those which are unseen and only conjectural.
In those which we call the dark ages,' faith made the unseen world to the mass of the European nations more near and pressing, as well as greater, than the world seen. Men were under trong temptations. Except ecclesiastics, every man had always a sword in his hand. Civilisation was far less general than it is now ; for men always accustomed to decide everything by violence were disqualified for civil society. But even in the most unlikely men, and in those whose actions are least pleasant to contemplate, we find, all of a sudden, the strongest sense of the unseen and supernatural, not as a mere acknowledgment, but working out of their minds against their own wish. The great rebellion of the 16th century against the principle of faith has left the mass of men with nothing certain except objects of sense, and no rule except human civilisation and material advancement.
So much has this uncertainty got possession of them, that they are unable so much as to understand the posture of mind of those who retain the old faith. I was reading a few days ago a criticism upon the lecture delivered by our late Cardinal-Archbishop before the Academia of the Catholic religion, in which he considered the objections to the genuineness of the robe of the Blessed Virgin at Chartres, and to the account of the martyrdom of S. Ursula and her companions at Cologne. The critic complained that the Cardinal was wholly incapable of seeing what evidence is. This seemed odd but it appeared that he supposed the Cardinal to have undertaken to prove, for instance, that the robe attributed to our Blessed Lady was really hers ; as he would prove a murder against a prisoner. He did not see that the argument was not addressed to this point at all ; that it was merely intended to prove that the common objections to the genuineness of the relic were without force. The fact was, the two minds approached the subject from opposite sides. The Cardinal began by assuming that an object was likely really to be what it was attested to be by an unbroken tradition of more than a thousand years. All he wished to show was that, when examined by unbelievers, it turned out to be exactly what it certainly would be supposing it to be genuine. The critic assumed that the tradition was false. He demanded, therefore, how do you prove the genuineness of the relic? and, of course, was disappointed when the Cardinal did not do what he had never thought of doing. This was no matter of faith ; yet it illustrates my meaning, for it is clear that the mass of educated men in our day approach the supernatural objects of faith in the sanie spirit. They come with minds emptied of the tradition of eighteen hundred years, and demand proof of every detail. The appropriate proofs are not wanting : but, meanwhile, they are, like Agricola with Britain to conquer and pacify, too busy to examine the proofs of things, which it is the happiness of Christians to have learned as first principles at their mother's knee.
And hence the peculiar interest of the Romans under the Empire in our day. What may be coming I know not. I am struck with some great points of resemblance between two eras. But I know that the past never exactly reproduces itself ;much more, that the world is not governed by any iron law of necessity ; so that, even if things were at the worst, it is left to our own labours and prayers to avert the catastrophe which once before fell upon it. The great lesson of the work before me is well stated by a French critic (M. de Meaux, in the
Correspondant') It is useless to ask of history how far man's reason can go by its unassisted powers. What history proves is that this reason never does find its way so absolutely without a higher light. The primitive revelation and the Christian revelation have been successively given to it by its Creator to complete it by surpassing it. Between these two revelations I seem to see heathen antiquity finding its way through a long and dark subterranean passage, both ends of which open into the light of day and the sunshine. At the point where the light which illuminated the entrance of the cavern loses itself in thick darkness, the stronger and fuller light, which blazes at its outlet, begins to penetrate_ This is the point which Roman society had reached at the period before us. Let it press towards the light of the new rays which invite it onward. Let it take a new life, and not sink fatigued.
Above all, let it not conceive a fatal love for the thick darkness to which its eyes have become habituated; and before long it will see the sky over its head, and will breathe the free and pure air.'
How rash it would be to reason confidently from the points of resemblance to any similar result of these two great civilisations of the world, will appear, if we consider for a moment their most striking differences.
The basis of Roman society was slavery. The peculiar form of that slavery was, that the slaves were, in the main, of the same races, or at least races nearly allied to that of their masters. The civilised world at present knows nothing at all analogous to this. So far as I know, the only civilised nation which, in this respect, at all resembled modern Europe, was Judea ; in which, so far as we can trace, slavery, though not strictly unknown, was within exceedingly narrow bounds. It is striking how little trace we find of the institution in the Gospels ; and M. de Champagny remarks that Josephus never so much as alludes to it in his history. Elsewhere, it was the very foundation of the social system. Modern authors have been much in the habit of corn-paring the neglected labouring classes to the slave-class of antiquity. This has sometimes had too much foundation. But the change which emigration to the new world has already wrought, and which it is likely to carry to a degree of which we are wholly unable to forecast the limits an I the result, entirely overthrows any such calculations. Above all, the Catholic Church is in possession of the modern world to a degree which the ancient world never knew. All appearances seem to show that the present is one of the critical periods of history, when what is old is falling away of itself, rather than being swept away. Our work is to see that we are not wanting to our children ; that we leave to them, unbroken, the inheritance of truth. They in their turn will be called to struggle and contend for it. In the world, as God has allowed it to be, there is no time for any generation to imagine that it has as yet entered into rest.