William Samuel Lilly.

Christianity and modern civilization; online

. (page 1 of 27)
Online LibraryWilliam Samuel LillyChristianity and modern civilization; → online text (page 1 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



/ Q -

, f.

Christianity and Modern

Christianity and Modern


Some Chapters in European History


an Introductory Dialogue on the
Philosophy of History


William Samuel Lilly

Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge

" In Lebensffuthen, im Thatensturm
Wall' ich auf und ab,
Webe bin und her !
Geburt und Grab,
Bin ewiges Meer,
Ein wechselnd Weben,
Ein gliihend Leben,

So schafF ich am sausenden Webstuhl der Zeit,
Und wirke der Gottheit lebendiges Kleid,"


London : Chapman & Hall, Ld.


IN 1886 the Author published a work in two volumes
entitled Chapters in European History. It has long
been out of print, and, for several reasons, he has
not seen well to republish it in its original form. In
this book a considerable portion of it finds place :
viz. the Chapters on The Christian Revolution, The
Turning-point of the Middle Ages, and The Age
of Faith all being more or less rewritten as well
as the Introductory Dialogue on the Philosophy
of History. The Chapters on The Nascent Church,
The Inquisition, and Holy Matrimony have been
reclaimed, by the kind permission of Mr. James
Knowles, from the Nineteenth Century, where they
originally appeared, and have received various altera-
tions and additions. The Chapter on The Age of the
Martyrs, with the exception of a few pages, is now
published for the first time. The Dedicatory Letter
prefixed to the original work is retained, in an
abridged form, as a tribute of gratitude and affection
to a friend now no more.

January i, 1903.





IN asking permission to inscribe this
book to you, I desire to pay a tribute to a friendship
extending from the days when, as a Scholar of Peter-
house, I enjoyed the advantage of your tuition. I
desired also to associate a work, the fruit of studies
then begun, with the " dear and dedicated name "
of the College which, besides much else, owes chiefly
to your unflagging energy and unwearied zeal, the
architectural restorations so admirably conceived and
so effectively carried out.

I could wish, indeed, that these Chapters in
European History were less unworthy of Peterhouse
and of you. I am well aware that each of them, for
the adequate treatment of its subject, should be ex-
panded into a volume. But I think that readers who
bestow upon them a more than superficial examina-
tion, will find that they are informed by a real unity
of thought. The well-known dictum of Hegel pro-
foundly true, it seems to me that the philosophy of


history is the supreme end of philosophy, may serve
to indicate the spirit in which I have written. And
while I must not anticipate your agreement with all
that is said in these pages, I am assured, from
experience, of finding in you a critic like the counsellor
of his youthful Muse commemorated by Pope a

"... judge and friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend ;
To failings mild, but zealous for desert ;
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart."

I am, my dear Master,

Most truly yours,


Jan. i, 1886.














Can anything be made of history ? i

Imperfect and fragmentary as our knowledge of the past is, the

general facts stand out clearly 3

The question is, whether what we know of man's past career, can
teach us any moral lesson. Our ignorance of the great world
order is beside that question 6

Every historian is more or less of a philosopher .... 8

The macrocosm must be interpreted by the microcosm : history

must be viewed in the light of primary ethical truths . . 10

St. Augustine and Bossuet's synthesis is imperfect. But their
main idea, which is evolution, is the real basis of historical
philosophy II

Evolution, Progress, Development is the universal law . . .12

The history of man is, in spite of immense drawbacks, a history of

material, social, ethical, and religious progress . . . -14

The never-ceasing process of evolution, the perpetual becoming,
which prevails throughout the universe is, in man, conscious :
and the highest form of it is the feeling after the Infinite . . 22

Obedience to law is the condition of progress material, social,

ethical, and religious 26

The law of virtue is the law we are born under: it rules over
nations as over individuals : the first fact about man is his
concept of duty 26

The root of all greatness, national or individual, is in loyalty to
truth, to right, to justice, all summed up in the old phrase of
fearing God 27

The progressive and conservative principle of civilization is the
idea of God, and of the duties binding upon us because He is
what He is 28

The probation of nations, as of individuals, is in their following
the highest ideal set before them. " The history of the world
is the judgment of the world " 30

Here too we are thrown back on free will, and the last word is

personality 33

xii Summary


Our inability to reconcile the solidarity of races, of nations, of
families, with individual responsibility, is no reason for denying
either of these truths 33

Great men are the founts of great thoughts ; and the trial of the
multitude lies in the loyalty with which they follow the Revela-
tions made at sundry times and in divers manners, by these
Prophets of the Most High 35

Mr. Spencer's contrary doctrine examined 37

Great men are authoritative teachers so far as they are ethical, so

far as they correspond with the truth of things, and no further 44

The great lesson deducible from history is Discite justitiam moniti 45



Object of the present volume : to consider some of the relations

between Christianity and Modern Civilization .... 47

What is meant by Modern Civilization 47

Plan of the present volume 49

Subject of Chapter I. : Christianity in its earliest epoch, extending

to the year 70 50

Three successive phases in this epoch 50

What Christianity was in its first phase the three years of its

Divine Founder's preaching and teaching . . . .51

Sources of evidence as to that preaching and teaching examined . 51
Substance of Christ's teaching the Fatherhood of God and the

exhibition of Himself as the Way to God 53

His Gospel no catalogue of dogmas, but the manifestation of a

Person 56

The second phase of Primitive Christianity extends from the

Crucifixion to the year 43, when the disciples were first called

Christians 57

Vivid picture of it in the Acts of the Apostles . , * . -57
St. Paul's conversion . . . . . . , , , .62

His destined task . .63

Sources of St. Paul's history 64

The Pauline transformation of Christianity 70

The third phase of Primitive Christianity, from the year 43 to the

year 70 72

During the first fourteen years of it, Antioch is the head-quarters

from which St. Paul's work is done, and the centre of activity

and progress 72

St. Paul and the Mosaic Law 72

His victory over the Judaizing party 74

His religious philosophy 74

His method of ratiocination 76

His style 77

St. Paul, St. James, and St. Peter . . . . . . . 78

Summary xiii

The Johannine writings 79

Asceticism of Primitive Christianity in its third phase ... 80

Its high estimate of religious celibacy 81

Character of its religious assemblies ....... 82

Its intolerance 83

Place held in it by Baptism and the Eucharist .... 84

Its polity 85



Arbitrariness of chronological divisions in history .... 88
The Age of the Martyrs is taken in this Chapter as extending from

the Fall of Jerusalem (70) to the Council of Nicaea (325) . . 88
It may, strictly speaking, be regarded as initiated by Nero's
persecution (64) and as terminated by the Edict of Tolera-
tion (313) 88

Darkness which hangs over the history of the Christian Church
from the date of St. Paul's arrival in Rome (61) till late in

the second century 89

Martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul in Rome 90

Nero's persecution 91

Cause of the conflict between the Church and the Roman Empire 93

The victory of Christianity the personal victory of its Founder . 97
Development of dogma in the Age of the Martyrs : first, as to

Christ's Divinity ... 99

Secondly, as to the Communion of Saints . ... 102

Development of the religious life ... ... 105

Development of a canon of Scripture . . ... 107

Development of ritual . . . 1 10

Development of polity ... 117

Importance of the formation of the hierarchy round the Roman See 128

Significance of the Council of Nicaea 129



Object of this Chapter : to consider, a little more closely, the revolu-
tion wrought by Christianity, first, on the individual man and,
secondly, on that civil society which is man's normal state . 131
We shall learn this best and most clearly from St. Augustine, and

especially from his Confessions and his City of God . . .131

Sketch of his life 132

And of his times 134

His was an age of political, intellectual, and moral dissolution . 135
Early in life he asks himself, What is the end of life ? . . .137

xiv Summary


The Neo-Platonists reveal to him the Absolute and Eternal, but

"fleshly habit " weighs him down from ascending to It . . 137

He reads in St. Paul's Epistles of " the grace of God by Jesus

Christ," powerful to deliver him from the body of this death . 139

The story of the holy and ascetic lives of St. Anthony and the

solitaries of the Thebaid inflames him 140

Tolle et lege 141

He finds the ideal : Induimini Dominum Jesum Christum . . 141

The change that was wrought in him 143

The work of the Christian Revolution upon the individual was
to substitute self-sacrifice, after the example of Christ, for
enlightened selfishness, as the supreme law of life : a law whose
practical outcome is duty, founded upon the constraining
influence of Divine charity 145

And it was this principle of self-sacrifice which transformed society 151

As the spiritual empire grows up, it supplants the old order of the

Roman world, and civilization becomes ecclesiastical . . i $ i

Hence Christendom, a social organization based upon the Christian

religion 154

As Christianity recreated the individual and the family, so did it

slowly re-create the public order 156

Here, as in individual life, the Cross of Christ was confessed to be

the interpretation of life and the measure of the world . . 157

In all that constitutes civilization in its highest sense, the medieval

period is superior to the times that preceded it . . . . 159

And this superiority flowed from the self-abnegation of which the
Divine Founder of Christianity is the Great Exemplar, and
which is the central idea of His religion 161



Importance of the re-creation of the Western Empire in 800 . .162
It denotes the final rupture from the old civilization, represented
by the corrupt Church an.d degenerate autocrats of Constanti-
nople 163

The Papacy becomes the founder of a new civilization revolving
round the centre formed by two Chiefs, the Pontifical and the

Imperial 163

This separation between the spiritual and the temporal a new

thing in the world 164

It deprives the State of half its ancient domain . . . .166
And the growth of feudalism completes the work of dissolution by

breaking up the unity of civil authority 166

True character of feudalism 167

It was a vast military and territorial aristocracy, in which the ideas
of individual freedom and political right had become merged
in the relations between lord and vassal 169

Summary xv


Side by side with the feudal system had grown up the spiritual com-
monwealth called Christendom, based upon the supreme worth
of personality, and fitted to counteract the evils of feudality . 170

Of this spiritual commonwealth the Roman See was the centre and
head, and, as a matter of fact, the close union between that See
and the several Churches throughout Europe, was the guarantee
of the independence of the spiritualty 172

The tendency of feudalism, as of all great movements in the public
order, was to bring all things into subjection unto itself, or else
to break them in pieces 175

How nearly it triumphed over the ecclesiastical element in the two
centuries between Nicholas I. and Gregory VII., the history
of the Papacy itself shows 175

The prospect before the world at the beginning of the eleventh
century was that the spiritualty would be merged in the feudal
system 1 80

If this result had been attained, the whole future of Europe would

have been disastrously different 180

For it would have meant the extinction of the Church as a society
perfect and complete in herself, and with her the extinction of
the great principles of which she was the sole representative
in the world the principles of the supremacy of law ; of the
freedom of conscience ; of the real equality of all men ; of
their brotherhood in the Christian faith ; of the essentially
fiduciary and limited nature of human authority . . .180

That these great ideas were not blotted out from the mind of the
new nationalities, was, humanly speaking, the work of one man,
and that man was Hildebrand : the Pontificate of Gregory VII.
is the Turning-Point of the Middle Ages 180

The conditions in which his work was done 181

Sketch of his early life 184

He accompanies St. Leo IX. to Rome in 1049, and is the trusted

adviser of that Pontiff and of the four next Popes . . .189

His great achievement before his own election to the Apostolic

Chair, is his vindication of the freedom of Papal elections . 193

His election as Pope in 1073, and his thoughts concerning it . .196

He addresses himself to the purification of the Church from simony
and incontinence, appealing to the communis sensus of the
faithful 199

Knowing well that the root of these evils was in the custom of lay
investiture, whereby the clergy were drawn into the meshes of
the feudal system, he determines utterly to prohibit that custom 210

And in 1075 he publishes a decree absolutely forbidding it . .214

He is thus brought into direct conflict with the Emperor Elect
Henry IV. : it was the throwing down of the gauntlet of the
spiritual power to feudalism 215

Henry attempts to terminate the nascent strife by seizing the

Pontiff's person 215

But Cenci's plot failing, he causes a Council of simoniacal and
incontinent prelates, convened at Worms, to decree the Pope's
deposition 220

xvi Summary


Gregory replies by pronouncing against Henry a sentence of
excommunication and of suspension from the government
of the whole realm of the Germans and of Italy (1076) . .221

The conflict thus engaged lasts for the remaining nine [years of
Gregory's Pontificate, and may be said to constitute a drama
of two Acts 223

The first ends at Canossa (1077) where Henry, abandoned by the
Prelates and Princes of Germany, presents himself before
Gregory to obtain relief from the bond of excommunication . 226

Having obtained it, he immediately proceeds to violate the con-
ditions upon which it was given, and resumes his simoniacal
and other flagitious practices 229

In 1081 he appears with an army before Rome, and in 1084 he
obtains possession of the City, Gregory retiring to Salerno,
where he dies (25 May, 1085), thinking he had failed . .231

Gregory had not failed : he had won the battle which he fought ;
for the victory was truly his, although its fruits were reaped by
his successors 234

The modern world owes to Gregory civil as well as religious liberty :
for the triumph of the spiritual element over brute force in-
volved the triumph of municipal and national freedom over
feudal tyranny 235

Gregory must be judged, not by the principles of the twentieth

century, but by the principles of the eleventh .... 238

The key of the enigma . . . 241



Monachism the dominant spiritual and intellectual fact of the

Middle Ages 244

The civilization of the twentieth century owes to the monks all that

is most valuable in it 244

Object of the present Chapter : to inquire what manner of men
those monks were, as to their thoughts, their aims, their aspira-
tions, or, in a word, their life-philosophy 244

Much light on this matter is radiated by the verse in which that
life-philosophy has been recorded the medieval hymns of
Catholicism 245

This sacred poetry is a peculiar product of the medieval order,
growing gradually as it grew, developing as it developed, culmi-
nating when it culminated, and declining when it declined, and
possesses special value for the history of Modern Civilization,
as the natural outcome of the deepest feelings and most assured
convictions of the generations which produced it ... 246

The language in which it is composed . . . . . . 247

Prudentius * 249

St. Ambrose . . . . . . . . . . 252

Summary xvii

The great volume of medieval Latin poetry opens definitely with

Venantius Fortunatus (530). Birth of the modern lyric . -255

The golden age of this department of literature .... 258

During the last hundred and fifty years of the Middle Ages
Latin poetry is in full decadence. The Renaissance is its
grave 275

In the verse of the medieval hymnists we see into the inner shrine

of the religion of that period 278

The Middle Ages are commonly called the Age of Faith. But in
order to a correct appreciation of those ages, it is not enough
to grasp the fact of their absorbing Supernaturalism : we must
know also of what kind the Supernaturalism was. This will
best be seen by comparing it with the Supernaturalism of
Pagan antiquity 278

In ancient Paganism, as it lived and ruled in the popular mind of
Greece and Rome, there was an almost total absence of the
idea conveyed to us by the word " God." The nearest approxi-
mation to that idea was the mysterious Power personified as
Fate or the Fates. Fatalism is the key to the religions and
philosophies of Paganism 280

Men turned away from the thought of this dark unapproachable
"stream of tendency," to the intermediate, anthropomorphic
existences, whom they supposed to direct the phenomena of
the external world ; who could give their votaries wealth,
power, voluptuous delights, and who might be propitiated and
bargained with 282

Ancient Polytheism enshrined no ethical law. Its office was to
assuage the fear which had called it into existence by turning
men's eyes from the darker problems of existence, and concen-
trating their attention on the finite, which was the sphere
where its deities were supposed to have power .... 283

The medieval view of the Supernatural differs from this view in

two important particulars 284

First, in the place of blind Fate, we have the great Hebrew Theistic
conception, cast into a new form by Christianity, through the
doctrines of the Incarnation and the Cross .... 285

It is a great error to regard what is called the Christian Mythology
as merely a new edition of that of ancient Paganism. How-
ever far the cult of Saints and Angels was carried in the Middle
Ages, the supreme worship of sacrifice was never offered to
them. Through the puerile fables and ludicrous superstitions
of those Ages, the idea of the Infinite God revealed in the
Word-made- Flesh, shines forth undimmed .... 286

Secondly, as the difference between the Pagan and Medieval views
of the nature of the Supernatural is essential, so is the differ-
ence between those views as to the sphere of its action . . 287

The men of Medieval Christendom regarded human life, not as its
own end, but as a preparation for a life hereafter. They
deemed of the material universe and of the senses whereby it
appeals to us which had been all in all to antique Paganism
as instruments of probation 288

xviii Summary


The difference between the views of the Classical and the Medieval
mind as to the relations of man with the Supernatural, may be
summed up in the statement that the one projected this world
into the invisible, the other brought the invisible world into this 292

Parallel between the progress of the European mind from the age
of Socrates to the age of Juvenal, and from the close of the
medieval period to the twentieth century . . , . . 292

The question of the day . . . . . . . . . 295


Subject of this Chapter : the action of the Catholic Church for the

repression of what is called " heretical pravity "... 297
First, the facts will be presented ; then, they will be considered

in their relations with Modern Civilization .... 297

Attitude of the Church towards heretical pravity in the First Age . 297

And in the Age of the Martyrs 297

When the Empire becomes Christian, heresy is accounted a crime,

and is punished as such . . . . f - . . . 298

The first instance of capital punishment for heresy .... 298

First appearance of Inquisitors 298

Repression of heresy from the fourth century to the thirteenth . 298

Bishops ex m termini Inquisitors within their respective dioceses . 299

Establishment of the Papal Inquisition by Gregory IX. in 1229 . 299

Its long career 300

Its procedure best studied in its last phase, which may be dated

from Paul III.'s Bull, Licet ab initio (1542) .... 300
Of that procedure, Father Elisha Masini's Sacro Arsenals is a

complete and admirably arranged manual 300

Some account of this work 301

A trial before the Inquisition . . ... . . . 306

Father Masini's apology for Torture . . . . . . .317

The uses of Torture 318

Varieties of Torture . . . 320

Niceties of Inquisitorial jurisprudence . . ... . 321

The application of Torture 322

The last stage of the trial 324

A proof of progress 327

Why in the days of the Christian State, transcendent guilt attached

to heresy 328

The Inquisition " a natural evolution of the forces at work in the

thirteenth century " 330

And its severities congenial to the spirit of that age . . . 330

The principle of toleration essentially modern 331

Effect of the Inquisition upon European Civilization . . . 332
The principle of repression played out : its place taken by the

principle of toleration 333

Summary xix



Every moral revolution which has taken place in the world is the

manifestation of an idea 335

The idea peculiar to Modern Civilization is the idea of human

personality 335

Which bears therein a new sense, derived from Christianity . . 335

Christianity was, in fact, a new principle of individuality . . . 336

Revealing the dignity we may say, the sanctity of human nature 336

By this revelation, the weaker half of humanity benefited far more

than the stronger half 336

The proclamation of the spiritual equality of woman with man, not-
withstanding her natural subjection to him, economically, may
well appear the most wonderful part of the change due to the
influence of Christianity 337

But Christianity did not merely vindicate the personality of woman :

it protected her personality by the new creation of marriage . 338

The lifelong union of two equal personalities, consecrated by religion,
and made Holy Matrimony, is the Magna Charta of woman in
Modern Civilization 338

Influence of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin on the position of

women in Modern Civilization 339

The characteristic specially marking off the Christian family from
the other families of the earth, is that it is founded on woman,
not on man . . 340

The conception of Holy Matrimony, which was so powerfully to
affect Modern Civilization, was not fully and firmly established
for centuries 340

But at the opening of the Middle Ages we find the absolute indis-
solubility of marriage, rightly contracted, save by the death of
one of the contracting parties, recognized and enforced by the
Canon Law 342

Since then this doctrine has been universally accepted in the

Catholic Church 342

In the Greek Church it has never been accepted at all . . . 342

And one cause of the manifest superiority of Western society over
Eastern, is the higher position which woman has occupied in
the West a position unquestionably resting upon the indissolu-
bility of marriage 344

The ethos of society is determined by women, whose goodness or

Online LibraryWilliam Samuel LillyChristianity and modern civilization; → online text (page 1 of 27)