Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/21

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11
HISTORY

by a small caste of high-bred families. The social hierarchy proceeded down from them to the slave, and war was waged on a slave basis, the victor acquiring the vanquished. The great wars of the Roman Republic against the Greek monarchies were huge treasure-seeking and slave-driving enterprises that reduced to servitude the most able and most refined part of the population of the conquered countries. Rome had created a great Mediterranean state, but at a terrible price. The civilization she had set up had no religion save an empty formalism, and no heart at all. It was the Jews who were to remedy this defect.

All through the East and in some parts of the West the Jewish merchants formed conspicuous communities in the cities of the Empire, giving an example of spiritual faith, of seriousness and rectitude, that contrasted strongly with what prevailed in the community. For materialism and epicureanism were the natural outcome of a period of economic prosperity; religion was at its best formalistic, at its worst orgiastic; ethical elements were almost wholly lacking. Yet a revolt against the soullessness and iniquities of the times was proceeding and men were prepared to turn to whatever leaders could give them a system large enough to satisfy the cravings of longoutraged conscience, and large enough to fill the bounds of the Mediterranean Empire. Three Jews—Jesus, Paul, and Philo—came forward to do this work.

Jesus was the example, the man of conscience, the redeemer God. For in this last capacity he could readily be made to fit in with the Asiatic cults of the sun and of redemption which were at that time the most active and hopeful lines of religious thought. Paul was the Jew turned Roman, an imperialist, a statesman, of wide view and missionary fervor. Philo was the Jew turned Greek, the angel of the Alexandrian schools, who had infused Hebraic elements into the moribund philosophizing of the Egyptian Greeks, and thereby given it a renewed lease of life. That lease was to run just long enough to pour the Alexandrian thought into the Christian mold and give the new religion its peculiar dogmatic apparatus.

For three centuries, until A. D. 312, Christianity was nothing in the Mediterranean world save a curious sect differing widely from the hundreds of other sects that claimed the allegiance of the motley