A FEW weeks ago the Christian Herald of New York City published the answers that it had received from a large number of public men to certain questions which it had sent to them as to their attitude toward Christianity. Of course favorable answers were given even by Li-Hung-Chang. The truest statement of the whole case, that we have seen is the following by the public of June 24, 1899:—
“One of the most paganistic performances of our day and generation is to be credited to a New York paper called the Christian Herald. Assertions having gained currency that the prominent men of the country have become so saturated with commercialism as to be indifferent to Christianity, the Christian Herald catechised a select lot, including the President, and has published the answers. Here are its interrogatories:—
“‘Are you a friend of Christianity?
“‘Do you believe that Christianity is the friend of mankind?
“‘Does your belief extend to a recognition of a Supreme Being, and to the divinity of Christ, to the surpassing potency of Christianity as a civilizing influence?’
“These interrogatories do not touch the core of the question. Had the public manner of Rome in Cesar’s time been asked if they believed in the gods, every one would have replied in the affirmative, though it was notorious that the Roman upper classes were atheists. But it was not good form to deny the gods openly. So now with Christianity. A certain conventional piety calling itself Christianity, is to our day with the gods were in Cesar’s day. No public man would dare deny believe in it. Ingersoll tried it and fell from a high estate and lofty possibilities in politics to the grade of a peripatetic lecturer. Who does not know the trick of sensational evangelists, who at their meetings ask all Christians to stand up. Of course, everybody stands. But that does not prove all to be Christians. Just so with the answers to the Christian Herald’s questions. Everybody from the President down answers in the affirmative. They all believe in Christianity. But to yield a perfunctory, conventional, pietistic profession of belief in Christianity is a very different thing from being a Christian. So the answers to the Christian Herald’s questions prove nothing. It is quite possible to profess a belief in Christianity while being so saturated with commercialism as to be utterly without either Christian practise or Christian spirit.”
That is all true. And yet it is not as close to the whole truth as it might be. To cite the times and prominent men of pagan Rome, is not as close a comparison  as can be fairly drawn with the stroke of the Christian Herald’s.
Think a moment: Pagan Rome became at last professedly Christian Rome. And when it had been so for fifty or even longer, how was it in such matters as this which is raised by the Christian Herald and touched by the Public? Here is the answer in the words of the historian Merivale:—
“If the great Christian scholars had themselves come forth from the schools of the pagans, the loss had not been wholly unrequited; so complacently had even Christian doctors again surrendered themselves to the fascinations of pagan speculations; so fatally, in their behalf, had they extenuated Christian dogma, and a acknowledged the fundamental truth and sufficiency of science falsely so called.
“The gospel we find was almost eaten out from the heart of the Christian society. I speak not now of the pride of spiritual pretensions, of the corruption of its secular politics, of its ascetic extravagance, its mystical fallacies, of its hollowness in preaching, or its laxity in practice; of it saint worship, which was a revival of hero worship; its addiction to the sensuous in outward service, which was a revival of idolatry. But I point to the fact less observed by our church historians, of THE ABSOLUTE DEFECT OF ALL DISTINCTIVE CHRISTIANITY IN THE UTTERANCES OF MEN OF THE HIGHEST ESTEEM as Christians, men of reputed wisdom, sentiment and devotion.
“Look, for instance, at the remains we possess of the Christian Boethius, a man whom we know to have been a professed Christian and a churchman, excellent in action, steadfast in suffering; but in whose writings, in which he aspires to set before us the true grounds of spiritual consolation on which he himself rested in the hour of his trial, and the on which he would have his fellows rest, THERE IS NO TRACE OF CHRISTIANITY WHATEVER, nothing but pure, and mangled naturalism.
“This marks decline of distinctive Christian belief was accompanied with a marked decline of Christian morality. Heathenism reasserted its empire over the carnal affections of the natural man. The pictures of abounding wickedness in high places and the low places of the earth, which are presented to us by the witness of the worst pagan degradation, are repeated, in colors not less strong, in lines not less hideous, by the observers of the gross and reckless iniquity of the so-called Christian period now before us. It becomes evident that as the great mass of the careless and indifferent have assumed with the establishment of the Christian church in authority and honor, the outward garb and profession of Christian believers, so with the decline of belief, the corruption of the visible church, the same masses, indifferent and irreligious as of old, have rejected the moral restraints which their profession should have imposed upon them.”
If the men of high standing at that time—the emperor, generals, naval captains, politicians, etc.,—had been asked these identical questions, they would invariably have given precisely similar answers. Thus it was in professed Christian Rome of the fourth and fifth centuries, and not in the Pagan Rome of Cesar’s time, that is found the closest comparison and the fittest likeness to the performance of the Christian Herald. And, be it remembered, all that was in the very time when the judgments of God, in the floods of barbarians, were being poured out to the utter ruin of the whole framework of society there.
And history is still repeating itself. Who will read the history in its true meaning? Alas! how many read it in vain!
A. T. J.