IF then we look at Christianity in its freest action and purest essence, we see that it wiped out the worst curses of Heathendom. Nor was this the only way in which, beyond all dispute, it lay the very foundation of that system to which, with its magnificent inheritance of progressive institutions and settled aims, we give the vague name of Modern Civilisation. I trust that one rapid final glance will determine our conviction that Intellectually, Socially, Politically it was and is the aim, and by God's special blessing the successful aim, of Christianity, to guide and to glorify the present and the future destinies of man.
Intellectually her work was less direct and immediate than in the other spheres ; and yet how vast it was. To begin with language itself, how has Christianity enriched, preserved, inspired it. How many languages, like the Gothic, Cornish, Old Prussian, Saxon, and Bulgarian, are solely preserved in fragments of scriptural and ecclesi astical documents; how many more, like the German and the English, have been fixed and elevated by versions of the Bible ; how many more, of the deepest interest for the student of humanity, have been solely made known to us, in every region of the globe, by missionary research. In Art again, which Greece and Rome had elaborated to such perfection of beauty, but degraded by such immorality of aim, how deep and salutary was the influence of our faith. Recall, however slightly, the greatest names of art—in Painting, a Tintoretto and a Raphael; in Architecture, a Brunelleschi and a Giotto; in Sculpture, a Ghiberti and a Michael Angelo; in Music, a Handel and a Mozart:—recall the loveliest creations of artistic genius, the resplendent mosaics of the great Italian basilicas, the Transfiguration, or the Madonna di San Sisto, the great cathedrals of Normandy and of England, the dome of Michael Angelo or the Campanile of Florence, the statues of Moses at Rome, or the apostles at Copenhagen, the musical notation, and the development of harmony, and the invention of the organ to lend new majesty to holy worship, and you will see at once the aesthetic influence of Christian faith. Or again, in Literature, enumerate the very greatest glories of eighteen Christian centuries, and consider whether they be not the certain and the natural outcome of purely Christian influences. The Civitas Dei, the Divina Com media, the Summa Theologia, the Imitatio Christi, the Novum Organum, the Plays of Shakespeare, the Paradise Lost, the Pilgrim's Progress, the In Memoriam—are not these severally matchless in their kind, and are they not works of which any one would have been impossible to Paganism, and to which heaven and earth have alike contributed ? Is there one work in all immoral, in all unchristian literature which you would match with these ? Will you set the Confessions of Rousseau side by side with the Confessions of St. Augustine, or compare Paine's Age of Reason with Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity ? Does not the history of all literature prove that not even the brightest wit or the keenest genius—not even the stately eloquence of Boling-broke, or the universal learning of Diderot, or the glowing imagination of Byron, or the flashing witticisms of Voltaire —can save the writings of men, however gifted, from perishing of inevitable decay, if they sin against the rules of morality, or are aimed against the principles of faith, Yet Socially the work of Christianity was more inestimable still. The vast moral revolution which it wrought may be summed up in this sentence,—that it founded the entire relations between man and man not, as heathendom had done, on selfishness, but on the new basis of universal love. The ideal of the Christian family, an ideal lovelier and happier than any which the world has ever known, is the direct creation of Christianity.
"Familia" to the ear of a Roman, meant a multitude of idle, corrupt, and corrupting slaves, kept in subjection by the cross and the ergastulum, ready for any treachery, and reeking with every vice. It meant a despot who could kill his slaves when they were aged, and expose his children when they were born ; it meant matrons among whom virtue was rare, divorces frequent, remarriage easy, and who, from no stronger motive than that of vanity, would sacrifice the lives of their infants yet unborn; it meant children spectators from their infancy of insolence and cruelty, servility and sin. But the new faith, while it sanctioned the authority of parents, checked their despotism; it made marriage sacred and indissoluble ; it encircled the position of womanhood with all that is pure, and Divine, and tender, in the names of mother and of wife. Well might the Pagan orator exclaim with envy, " What women these Christians have !" A Phoebe and a Priscilla, a Fabiola and a Pulcheria, a Paula and a Eustochia, a Monica and a Perpetua, a Placilla and a Gorgonia were new phenomena to the Pagan world. For families in which, like sheltered flowers, spring up alt that is purest and sweetest in human lives; for marriage exalted to an almost sacramental dignity; for all that circle of heavenly blessings which result from a common self-sacrifice; for that beautiful unison of noble manhood, stainless womanhood, joyous infancy, and uncontaminated youth; in one word, for all that there is of divinity and sweetness in the one word Home; for this—to an extent which we can hardly realise—we are indebted to Christianity alone.
Again, Politically, how immense and how beneficent was its direct action. Consider how great was the problem solved by the fundamental separation yet coordinate action of Church and State. The old Greek Utopias were here realised, not by a Pedantocracy of unpractical philosophers, but by a due subordination of the intellect to social activity, and by rendering the entire commonwealth of empires amenable to a central spiritual power. It was thus that morality, which is ever growing in political force, was first definitely infused into civil governments, and its immediate effect was to mollify all anarchical elements, to interpose a truce of God between the oppressor and the oppressed, and in an age of blood and iron to make the sword fall before the cross. Again, consider the great idea of Unity—the Solidarity of Peoples — the strong bond between the members of a common Christendom. The great fabric of International Law was built upon the conception that all nationalities, however isolated or antagonistic, were fused into the higher unity of a dominant Church, of which even the barbarous tribes of unexplored continents were regarded as the natural subjects. " Sirs, ye are brethren," was the voice of Christendom to warring kings. It was a magnificent faith. Henceforth the contemptuous exclusiveness of Greece, the cunning, cruel, tortuous policy of Rome, fell absolutely under the ban. Henceforth there were no "natural enemies;" no treating of conquered barbarians like animals or plants; no selfish sacrifice of the ignorant many to the illuminated few. Priests had begun their sacrifices with the cry "Procul este profani," but the true voice of Christianity was " Come unto Me." The Philosophers had never dreamed of it, but the real Unity of Mankind, revealed by the Incarnation of the Son of God, had been first proclaimed, amid a thousand perils, by the wandering tent-maker; and the full Universality of the Gospel had been first revealed to the Galilaean fisherman as he slept at noon-day on the tanner's roof. To realise this Unity, to effect this Universality, was the great mission of the Church. She did not discourage Patriotism, but by supplementing it with the conception of our common humanity she rendered it intenser and more sublime. The ancients had had mysteries and secret doctrines, but the whole of Christianity was open to her very meanest son : the heathen had adored local divinities and gods of the profession and the class, but the Saviour whom Christians worshipped was the Saviour of the world. Once more, consider what the Church did for Education. Her ten thousand monasteries kept alive and transmitted that torch of learning which otherwise would have been extinguished long before. A religious education, incomparably superior to the mere athleticism of the noble's hall, was extended to the meanest serf who wished for it. This fact alone, by proclaiming the dignity of the individual, elevated the entire hopes and destinies of the race. The humanising machinery of Schools and Universities, the civilising propaganda of missionary zeal, were they not due to her ? And, more than this, her very existence was a living education : it showed that the successive ages were not sporadic and accidental scenes, but were continuous and coherent acts in the one great drama. In Christendom the yearnings of the past were fulfilled, the direction of the future determined. In dim but magnificent procession, "the giant forms of empires on their way to ruin " had each ceded to her their sceptres, bequeathed to her their gifts.