(b) The gospel, which they proclaimed, was a gospel of salvation through faith in a Jew who had been put to an ignominious death.
(c) This gospel was one which excited natural repugnance, by humbling men?s pride, striking at the root of their sins, and demanding a life of labor and self-sacrifice.
(d) The gospel, moreover, was an exclusive one, suffering no rival and declaring itself to be the universal and only religion.
(a) The early Christians were more unlikely to make converts than modern Jews are to make proselytes, in vast numbers, in the principal cities of Europe and America. Celsus called Christianity ?a religion of the rabble.?
(b) The cross was the Roman gallows ? the punishment of slaves. Cicero calls it ?servitutis extremum summumque supplicium.?
(c) There were many bad religions why should the mild Roman Empire have persecuted the only good one? The answer is in part: Persecution did not originate with the official classes; it proceeded really from the people at large. Tacitus called Christians ?haters of the human race.? Men recognized in Christianity a foe to all their previous motives, ideals, and aims. Altruism would break up the old society, for every effort that centered in self or in the present life was stigmatized by the gospel as unworthy.
(d) Heathenism, being without creed or principle, did not care to propagate itself. ?A man must be very weak,? said Celsus, ?to imagine that Greeks and barbarians, in Asia, Europe, and Libya, can ever unite under the same system of religion.? So the Roman government would allow no religion which did not participate in the worship of the State. ?Keep yourselves from idols,? ?We worship no other God,? was the Christian?s answer. Gibbon, Hist. Decline and Fall, 1: chap. 15, mentions as secondary causes:
(2) the doctrine of immortality;
(3) miraculous powers;
(4) virtues of early Christians;
(5) privilege of participation in church government.
But these causes were only secondary, and would have been insufficient without an invincible persuasion of the truth of Christianity. For answer to Gibbon, see Perrone, Prelectiones Theologfe, 1:133.
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