Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"RECENT discussions of our educational system have directed attention once more to an historical question of some interest: How far has the religion of Europe been a creative force in the making of its distinctive civilisation ? Ever since the Churches entered upon the apologetic phase of their life, they have laid peculiar stress on their past service to Europe, and sought to ground thereon a claim to continued recognition and power. To the majority of people the appeal was effective enough. The co-extension of our Western religion with our Western civilisation, and the permeation of most of our institutions with theological ideas and ecclesiastical traditions, constituted a solid fact that made a minute examination superfluous. When, in addition, a number of obviously sceptical writers urged that the maintenance of religion is essential to the maintenance of our civilisation; when scholars like Mr . Birrell and Mr.Bryce solemnly repeated that the Bible is "the source of England's greatness"; men and women of little historical culture felt that they might continue to lend a
sympathetic ear to the solicitations of the clergy."
"But the reform of history and the general reconsideration of older convictions have tended to strengthen the attitude of interrogation. The apologetic works, to which one turns for some explicit proof, either offer us only the unsubstantial rhetoric and the strained generalisations of the older fashion of writing history, or else they make indiscriminate appeals to that earlier
Christian literature which Mr . Lecky has described as "surpassing in its mendacious ferocity any other that the world has known." Indeed, living masters of ecclesiastical history, like Professor Harnack, have regretted that their science has not advanced in line with profane history, and abandoned the irregularities of its youth. Still, in reading it, one feels that it is
"history with a purpose," and that its purpose is, in the mind of the writers, so lofty and imperious as to throw in the shade the ordinary canons of the profane historian."
"The following essay is a study in detail of the social effect of the adoption of the Christian religion in Europe. The beneficent results of some of the Christian ideas and emotions have been enlarged upon so fully at all times that it only remained for me to dwell, at any length, on the less familiar disadvantages of the new doctrines. Here, again, however, most of the
facts which I bring to the reader 's notice are so well established by historians like Milman, Lecky, Gibbon, Buckle, Boissier, Draper, White, Hallam, Bryce, and others, that I have not frequently been compelled to make original research. Where I have done so, the text is fully supported by authorities. In the main, my little work is a sketch of a side of the historical development of European institutions that is too often ignored. But the study of it is essential for the formation of a sound judgment on the social value of Christianity, and a wise determination of our attitude towards it to-day."