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tinople the moral gangrene pervading every part of the priestly system at a subsequent period.
A speculation more interesting, and more germane to our subject, presents itself to him who, not unmindful of that Providence which works out good even from seeming evil, endeavours to lay open the more beneficial and, it might be added, the more immediate effects of the above conditions on that chaos of ignorance and barbarism from which were to spring so many of the institutions in which we have learnt to rejoice.
The uncouth invaders of Southern Europe, before whom the shrivelled form of Imperial power so rapidly sunk, arrived among the unworthy heirs of so many great and noble ideas, terrible in physical energy, but accessible as children to all the moral influences of the refinement they were overthrowing. The rude bands, which had scorned to shrink before the yet formidable renown of the legions of Rome, bowed submissively before the pomp and ancient fame of her religious and civil supremacy. The conqueror of Aquileia, abashed before the majesty of a Roman Pontiff, was a striking type of the inevitable moral triumph which the world's victors were so soon to adorn. But a Christian Church, however worthy of the name, which should have flourished unnoticed by the great and powerful and adorned by no alluring tokens of outward prosperity, but bearing in the fruitfulness of its hidden work evidence of celestial favour, would have been less calculated to arrest barbarian thoughtlessness than the more miscellaneous structure raised by the munificence of Imperial piety. Uncultivated intellects are more easily dazzled than argued into conviction, and we can expect little from the unaided reason of men who are more effectually influenced by the tempting logic of the eye and the imagination. It was fitting then, that the nations of the North should find in the lands which they overran a Church, the temporal elevation of whose sway might strike them with astonishment before they learnt to acquiesce in the spiritual force of its doctrines: that they should be taught to reverence as civil potentates the Patriarchs and Bishops to whose ecclesiastical dominion they were ere long to be subject; that they should obey them as the representatives of a yet revered Caesar, before they saw in them the ministers of a Deity whose pure moral attributes they could hardly picture to themselves. That ecclesiastical wealth, which during the comparative prosperity of the Western Empire might well arouse the suspicions and call for the condemnation of the scrupulous, was not ill spent in supporting amidst prevailing desolation the sole guardians of Divine Truth. The temporal authority, so often a stumbling-block in the performance of severer duties, became of no small importance when the clergy were the leaders of the Roman population and the only link between ancient enlightenment and barbarian darkness. But we are anticipating what more justly belongs to a subsequent section of our subject.
We have thus, in so far as our narrow limits permit, touched upon the moral benefits of clerical influence, both in relation to the existing conditions of Europe during the later empire, and (what to a modern student is even more interesting) viewed as a preparation for the future changes in the distribution of intellectual and political sway.
Before we pass from reviewing the means by which clerical influence was exerted on the believers who continued to throng into the fold of the Church, we must bestow a few words on that ever-increasing intellectual authority, by means of which the churchmen of the fourth and fifth centuries have left so enduring an impression, not only on their contemporaries, but on every succeeding generation of Christians; for while it must be evident that the theological opinions of later ages have been, and will ever continue to be, in no small degree moulded by the profound learning and acumen of those early teachers, yet the stimulus and the direction which the intellectual powers of the Roman world received from them present themselves to us, at least, as a yet more important feature of the ecclesiastical system. And first among the means of clerical usefulness we must place,—what might indeed have been more suitably introduced into our first chronological section,—that Pulpit Eloquence which stands so prominently forward as a distinctive peculiarity of the Christian priesthood in every age. Indeed the main difference between the offices of the Gospel dispensation and those of every other religion lay in this, that the Christian ministers fully combined two functions elsewhere kept, to a greater or less degree, distinct; that they acted at the same time as dispensers of religious
mysteries, and as instructors of the people in the indispensable religious truths which accompanied those mysteries. In all heathen creeds, if we except the few systematic and occult superstitions of Central Asia, no approach had been made towards a combination of such usually discordant duties; and even in such relics of a purer faith as lurked at Samothrace and Eleusis, priestly instruction, vouchsafed only to the initiated few, tended merely to establish certain ceremonial observances long dissevered from the moral truths which they had once prefigured.
In Greece and Italy the mass of the nation attained whatever knowledge they possessed of their deities from the traditional ballads of an early age, or from the less enduring marbles which adorned their shrines; while the philosophic few had long rejected all real faith in those gods who still obtained their mimic adorations. Religious instruction from the priesthood was thus rendered unavailing to every class of society alike. The purer faith of the Jews, again, though it freed its votaries from the unnatural divorce of religion and philosophy, and placed within the grasp of the popular intellect the connexion between revealed religion and the eternal truths of pure morality, was yet distinguished in one important particular from the creed of which it was the forerunner. The Israelitish priesthood, perpetually occupied by the duties of a cumbrous ceremonial, could have found but little leisure to elucidate the mysteries of their faith, and with them clerical teaching was little more than a recitation of the plain decrees of their Almighty Ruler, and a recounting of His mighty deeds of old. It was reserved then for the ministers of a purer dispensation, relieved both from the obscenities of Paganism and from the clogging ceremonies of the Jewish ritual, to assume a more vigorous sway over the religious and intellectual developments of their disciples.
Religious eloquence is as unquestionably the offspring of Christianity, as popular eloquence is of democracy, or forensic eloquence of a refined civilization. Preaching was to Christianity what the sword was to Mahommedanism, its main support both at its origin and in all its subsequent successes. That frequent exercise of oratorical influence of the clergy was from the earliest times an acknowledged portion of the ecclesiastical system, is attested both by the numerous exhortations and yet more striking examples of the great Fathers of the Church, and by the express injunction of one of the Apostolic Canons, in which neglect of preaching in a diocese is declared to be a convincing proof of utter carelessness in its Episcopal head1.
1 At a later period (about A. D. 734) Bede thus exhorts Egbert Archbishop of York (Ep. ad Ecgbert. 4) to begin his work of reforming the manifold abuses of his diocese: "Lege enim Actus Apostolorum, et videbis referente Luca quales secum comites apostoli Paulus et Barnabas habuerint, quid etiam ipsi ubicunque devenissent operis egerint. Statim namque ut civitates vel synagogas ingressi sunt, Verbum Dei prsedicare et per omnia disseminare curabant. Quod etiam te, dilectissimum mihi caput, sagaciter cupiam, ubicunque potes, implere; in hoc namque officium a Domino electus, in hoc consecratus es, ut Verbum evangelizes