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In that nation alone, the great truths of the existence and unity of God, His providential ruling of His creatures and their responsibility towards Him, were preserved unimpaired amidst general corruption.The ancient world was given to Pantheism and creature-worship ; Israel only, not because of its "monotheistic instinct " (Renan), but because of the periodic interposition of God through His prophets, resisted in the main the general tendency to idolatry.
These and other aspects of this great subject will receive treatment under separate titles.They combined to destroy the notion of a nation cultus, and to separate the service of the Deity from the service of the State.Finally, as a contributory cause to the diffusion of Christianity, we must not fail to mention the widespread Pax Romana, resulting from the union of the civilized races under one strong central government."If Christ is not risen again, your faith is vain", declares the Apostle Paul ( 1 Corinthians ), who says no word of the other wonders Christ performed.By His death, therefore, and His return from the dead, Christ, as the event proved, furnished the strongest means for the effective preaching of the religion He came to found.During his whole mortal life on earth, including the two or three years of His active ministry, Christ lived as a devout Jew, Himself observing, and insisting on His followers observing, the injunctions of the Law ( Matthew 23:3 ).
The sum of His teaching, as of that of His precursor, was the approach of the "Kingdom of God", meaning not only the rule of righteousness in the individual heart ("the kingdom of God is within you" — Luke ), but also the Church (as is plain from many of the parables ) which He was about to institute.
Besides maintaining those pure conceptions of Deity, the prophets from time to time, and with ever increasing distinctness until we come to the direct and personal testimony of the Baptist, foreshadowed a fuller and more universal revelation — a time when, and a Man through Whom, God should bless all the nations of the earth.
We need not here trace the Messianic predictions in detail; their clearness and cogency are such that St.
Whether due ultimately to the Old Testament predictions or to the fragments of the original revelation handed down amongst the Gentile, a certain vague expectation of the coming of a great conqueror seems to have existed in the East and to a certain extent in the Roman worlds, in the midst of which the new religion had its birth.
But a much more marked predisposition to Christianity may be noticed in certain prominent features of the Roman religion after the downfall of the republic. In their stead Greek philosophy occupied the minds of the cultured, whilst the populace were attracted by a variety of strange cults imported from Egypt and the East.
Yet, though He often foreshadowed a time when the Law as such would cease to bind, and though He Himself in proof of His Messiahship occasionally set aside its provisions ("For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath ", Matthew 12:8 ), yet, as, in spite of His miracles, He did not win recognition of that Messiahship, still less of His Divinity, from the Jews at large.