Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/40

This page needs to be proofread.


quered. Satan had fallen from Heaven like lightning, and yet there was given to him the power to winnow the disciples. And the one disciple who succumbed to him dipped his fingers into the same dish with the Master. Thus it was that primitive Christianity understood and read the Gospel, and exactly thus has the Church preached that Gospel through all times, whether of ignominy or of glory.

The worldwide peace of the Empire had not been a social peace, nor had it brought rest to the human heart. Though there was an abundance of earthly goods, man cried out for salvation. Every one of the Oriental enthusiasts and mystagogues who landed in the har- bours of Pozzuoli or Brindisi could expect to find a market in Rome for his teachings. The world they confronted there was not one of urban vice but of the collapse of social and civic life. Capital was the true master of all. It did violence to justice. It destroyed the rich and oppressed the poor. Luxury brought forth nihilism, and hunger did likewise. There were vast estates and usury, slave trade and mass misery, an army of mercenaries which served the business of war and from which the citizen cut himself free with money, a private justice out of which there had developed a code of egoism, and a plutocratic politic based on the ability to buy power. These were ills to which no legislator could call a halt, and which no god any longer drove away. Even the few rulers of great format were powerless to heal this inner moral illness, Hadrian, the most impressive figure of them all, was only a nervous ruler of a house in peril. He spread his vast genius like a protective mantle over the garnered heirlooms of the Latins, the Greeks and the Semites, and joined Greece and Rome in a brilliant cosmopolite union. And still this eternally travelling, administrat- ing builder, this almost sleepless worker, seemed in the end to be a man running away from himself and able to endure the bearing of his own heart only when he could lose himself in the world of affairs.

Meanwhile an empire was growing very quietly inside the Empire. As soon as there was a David to confront this Goliath of Rome, the giant's fate was sealed if the youthful opponent could find the spot at which the armour was weak. The civil authorities saw clearly that the Christians were a menace. They were measured by entirely dif- ferent standards than those which were applied to protagonists of other new cults. Long after the time of Hadrian the Christians were