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MARTYRS 27

a sect that stood outside the pale of the law. Their God did not per- mit Himself to be placed in the Pantheon like the other deities of conquered peoples, but like a sovereign He came as One who ruled over all and held everything in His hand. Nor was He the God of any people: He crossed the boundaries of nations and mustered in each the citizens of His super-kingdom. The Christians prayed for Emperor and Empire, but they did not venerate Csesar. They re- fused to render military service and they despised the gods of Rome. In the Roman sense of the term, they were atheists, thus disrupting the sacred foundations of the state and bringing on themselves the blame for public disasters. The worried emperors resorted to persecution in its severest forms, but the power of the Christian enemy could not be destroyed with the sword. Though there were a host of apostates who hoped to seem once more what they no longer were, their numbers availed nothing. The persecuted majority did not lose courage, nor were those who fell aught else than the bearers of an example urging others to resist. It was just as impossible to stifle in blood the convic- tions of a society which looked upon the day a martyr died as his birthday in eternal life, as it was to alter the truth of the dictum of Greek tragedy that life is an act of dying, and that to die means to live. Proscription strengthened the Christian community. The storm which arose from pagan culture passed over it like a life-bringing tem- pest, the winds of which bore seed. The Church had received no mandate either to open its doors to that culture or to close them against it. Vigorous tension characterized that Church from the be- ginning: in it were fought out conflicts between light and darkness, faith and unbelief, fall and resurrection, life and death, heaven and hell. Since, therefore, its consciousness had metaphysical breadth, it possessed the strength and the inner poise needed when the impact of the surrounding world made it imperative that whenever anything was offered by that world which was assimilable to its own inner form it welcomed the accession while repudiating all else. Many shadows fall upon its young growth. Its writings contain yellowed pages, like last year's leaves on spring trees, but the proofs of their power still lie hidden for the most part even as does the virility of roots or seed pods just bursting. The world then had enough of handicraft and of intellectual achievement. Foundations, walls, palaces, basilicas


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