Page:An Academic Sketch.djvu/8

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


Both after the extinction of the Roman Empire in the West, and during its senility, it may be affirmed, with some approach to historic truth, that there existed, throughout the range of the ancient civilisation, but one conspicuous instance of a standing attempt at systematic and orderly self-government, together with adjustment of disputes by the word rather than the sword. This example was to be found in the ordered fabric of the Christian Church; which, amidst surrounding decay, the living among the dead, steadily developed its organisation, and constructed its theology. Not that the action of its machinery, in its detail, was always prompt, regular, and certain. Efficiency such as that, in the moral sphere, is not given to man. But upon the whole, and by approximation, this mechanism did its work. A system was erected, alike vast and durable.

The resistance offered to this new agency was more tenacious and longer-lived[1] than some have supposed.

  1. See Beugnot, Décadence du Paganisme dans l'Occident, passim.