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from without and advancing corruption within, has been constantly acquiring peculiar fitness for its great work of civilization and humanity; [which, in marvellous vision1, appeared to Hermas in its earliest days as raised from the waters by angelic hands from a noble foundation of Apostles, Bishops, and Teachers, guarded by every Christian virtue; and which to his age, as to each succeeding one, seemed to wait for the fulfilment of all things in the speedy coming of its Lord2.]
It shall be our task, then, to trace, during the first ten centuries of our era, the leading features of that mighty scheme by which the practical benefits of our religion were diffused through so many lands3 and proclaimed in so many various tongues; [so that, even at the close of the second century, Tertullian could, with somewhat of his usual hyperbole, it is true, apply to the exertions of his fellow-presbyters the language of David in the nineteenth Psalm, "Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world and after repeating the national enumeration from the
1 Hermas, Pastor. Lib. i. Vis. iii. c. 2.
1 "Quando ergo consummata fuerit turns et sedificata, habet finem; sed et cito consummabitur."—Ibid. c. 8.
3 Of the coming triumphs of its ministers we have no fitter foreshadowing than its early and rapid progress under the great Apostle of the Gentiles himself—who, in the words of Clement,
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Cor. 5.]—See the full argument in favour of the wide extension of the Gospel under St Paul in Howson and Conybeare's work, c. 27. Acts of the Apostles, could add: "In quibus omnibus locis Christi nomen, qui jam venit, regnat, utpote ante quem omnium civitatum porte sunt apertae, et cui nullse sunt clausae, ante quem sene ferreae sunt comminute, et valvae Bereae aperte." (Adv. Judwos, c. 7.)] We shall see our holy faith brought, in the persons of its ministers, into contact and often into conflict with civilized and uncivilized man, with "barbarian, Scythian, bond and free," at one time in almost apostolic purity, at another sunk in seemingly hopeless corruption, and shall learn the more to adore the wisdom of its Divine Head, who from such mutable and beggarly elements has added strength to the cause of unchanging Truth. But contenting ourselves with a lower and purely human ground, we shall find in the subject before us one possessed of no ordinary attractions. For at a period like the present, when the institutions of our forefathers are being scrutinized, and their origins investigated, with an accuracy before unknown, when the scope of history is every day becoming more ample and its materials more abundant, we can scarcely obtain a more interesting field of inquiry than the social elements and changes of that to us chaotic age, fraught with the undeveloped germs of our modern greatness. [Moreover, as, in the days when the professors of Christianity were but a handful among millions, the apologists of the faith could compare its votaries, dwelling in the world but not of the world, to the human souli, occupying the body, to give life, energy,
1 'air\ws 5' ciirciv, oirep kaTlv ev a-wliaTi ipvxfi, Tout elo-lv iv Koautf and physical existence to every part of it; so, in each age of the Church, do we find the clergy bearing a similar relation to the nominally Christian world; sometimes tending to the ruggedness of the barbarism in which they were merged, more often, as we shall see, to the effeminacy of their old Roman associations; but still, though too often polluted and trodden under foot of men, clinging to the fulfilment of that parting promise of their Master, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world."—To their successors, truly, in these seemingly more brilliant but not less tempting times, a lesson not to be neglected.]
And assuredly neither the enduring remains of the constitution of Rome, nor the vigorous but shapeless energy of invading barbarism, can present to us more matter of interest or of instruction than the progress and influence of the Christian clergy during the earlier ages of their history. For in order correctly to appreciate the workings of the Roman and Teutonic spirits on the later organizations of Europe, we must view them in combination with the third and most important element, by which alone was the one preserved and the other refined,—the polity of the Christian Church. And we cannot conceal from ourselves that the period of history which we are called upon in this Essay to survey is re
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elo-l Si ex Tov Kov/iov—Auct. Epist. ad Diognetum, c. 6. Cf. Justin. Martyr. Apol. n. c. 7.
plete with no ordinary difficulties to the inquirer; it includes ages differing from each other as well in the more obvious characteristics which lie on the very surface of the most superficial chronicle, as in the hidden tokens of moral and social progress or dissolution. We are compelled to bring under our glance Roman Europe and Germanic Europe, under nearly every variety of their changing forms;—the former, from the time when the traditions of the Republic were yet fresh to that melancholy age when the subjects of a degenerate sceptre looked back with regret to the comparative greatness and virtues of the later Caesars; while in the latter we discern features of greater or less obscurity but of unvarying interest, from the first vague movements of the Teutonic hordes to the helpless indolence and final extinction of the despised Carlovingians.
But our province includes not merely an examination of the benefits which accrued to the several elements of contemporary society, whether Roman or barbarian, from the influence of the Christian clergy;—it leads us to the more intricate problem of tracing, amid the complicated framework of modern society and government, the great results of the foundations laid in the turmoil of the middle ages: for the historical student is inevitably conducted, by a thousand points of more or less remote analogy, from the undeveloped forms of those early days to the comparative perfection of our own times; and there are but few causes which shew themselves at work there, that cannot be discovered by their influence, be it of action or of reaction, now.
But while it is 'necessary thus at the very outset to present to ourselves the magnitude of the task in which we are engaged, it is no less necessary that we should impose upon it its due restrictions. In the first place then, we must remember that we have to do, not with the effects of the Christian religion or morality considered by itself, a subject which would lead us into a far wider and deeper contemplation, but solely with those produced by the ministers of that religion, whether as individuals or as a corporation: and in the next place, we have to present, not every important result of their intercourse with the members of the body secular, but only those of them which to an observer freed from the distortions of prejudice by the lapse of so many centuries may seem to have been beneficial.
In reviewing, then, the benefits conferred by the clerical body on the world during the period before us, we shall class them under two heads:
(1) Those which make themselves perceptible in the social and moral life of mankind:
(2) Those which affect more directly the political state and progress of European nations.
We shall include under the former head all those blessings which the clergy, the salt of the earth, however much at times tainted by the admixture of secular interests and debasing passions, have imparted to man individually, or in his more immediate relations with his fellow-beings— the steps by which they have enforced a greater regard for morality and justice, and have united in one common