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History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100.
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§ 49. Christianity and Society.


Christianity enters with its leaven-like virtue the whole civil and social life of a people, and leads it on the path of progress in all genuine civilization. It nowhere prescribes, indeed, a particular form of government, and carefully abstains from all improper interference with political and secular affairs. It accommodates itself to monarchical and republican institutions, and can flourish even under oppression and persecution from the State, as the history of the first three centuries sufficiently shows. But it teaches the true nature and aim of all government, and the duties of rulers and subjects; it promotes the abolition of bad laws and institutions, and the establishment of good; it is in principle opposed alike to despotism and anarchy; it tends, under every form of government, towards order, propriety, justice, humanity, and peace; it fills the ruler with a sense of responsibility to the supreme king and judge, and the ruled with the spirit of loyalty, virtue, and piety.

Finally, the Gospel reforms the international relations by breaking down the partition walls of prejudice and hatred among the different nations and races. It unites in brotherly fellowship and harmony around the same communion table even the Jews and the Gentiles, once so bitterly separate and hostile. The spirit of Christianity, truly catholic or universal, rises above all national distinctions. Like the congregation at Jerusalem, the whole apostolic church was of "one heart and of one soul."638638    Acts 4:32. It had its occasional troubles, indeed, temporary collisions between a Peter and a Paul, between Jewish and Gentile Christians; but instead of wondering at these, we must admire the constant victory of the spirit of harmony and love over the remaining forces of the old nature and of a former state of things. The poor Gentile Christians of Paul’s churches in Greece sent their charities to the poor Jewish Christians in Palestine, and thus proved their gratitude for the gospel and its fellowship, which they had received from that mother church.639639    Gal. 2:10; 2 Cor. 9:12-15; Rom. 15:25-27. The Christians all felt themselves to be "brethren," were constantly impressed with their common origin and their common destiny, and considered it their sacred duty to "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."640640    Gal. 8:28; Eph. 4:3. While the Jews, in their spiritual pride and "odium generis humani" abhorred all Gentiles; while the Greeks despised all barbarians as only half men; and while the Romans, with all their might and policy, could bring their conquered nations only into a mechanical conglomeration, a giant body without a soul; Christianity, by purely moral means) founded a universal spiritual empire and a communion of saints, which stands unshaken to this day, and will spread till it embraces all the nations of the earth as its living members, and reconciles all to God.



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