John Lord.

Anceint states and empires online

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enervating vices. Society was steeped in sensuality, frivolity,
and selfishness. The empire was rotten to the core, and must
become the prey of barbarians, who had courage and vitality.
Three centuries earlier, the empire might have withstood the
shock of external enemies, and the barbarians might have
been annihilated. But they invaded the provinces when
central power was weak, when public virtue had fled, when
the middle classes were extinct, when slavery, demoralizing
pleasures, and disproportionate fortunes destroyed elevation
of sentiment, and all manly energies. A noble line of martial
emperors for a time arrested ruin, but ruin was inevitable.
Natural law asserted its dignity. The penalty of sin must
be paid. Nothing could save the empire. No conservative
influences were sufficiently strong — neither literature, nor
art, nor science, nor philosophy, nor even Christianity.
Society retrograded as the new religion triumphed, a mys-
terious fact, but easily understood when we remember that
vices were universal before a remedy could be applied. The
victories of Christianity came not too late for the human
race, but too late for the salvation of a worn-out empire.

Chap. XLVI] Conclusion. 645

The barbarians were advancing when Constantine was con-
verted. The salvation of the race was through these bar-
barians themselves, for, though they desolated, they recon-
structed ; and, when converted to the new faith, established
new institutions on a better basis. The glimmering life-sparks
of a declining and miserable world disappeared, but new
ideas, new passions, new interests arose, and on the ruins of
the pagan civilization new Christian empires were founded,
which have been gaining power for one thousand five hun-
dred years, and which may not pass away till civilization
itself shall be pronounced a failure in the present dispensa-
tions of the Moral Governor of the World.


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Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 55 of 55)