“We have endeavoured to indicate the tendencies by which the great change was effected. It remains to answer the second question: Did the Gospel hold its own amid the change, and, if so, how? That it entered upon an entirely new set of circumstances is already obvious; but we shall have to study them more closely.
No one can compare the internal state of Christendom at the beginning of the third century with the state in which it found itself a hundred and twenty years earlier without being moved by conflicting views and sentiments. Admiration for the vigorous achievement presented in the creation of the Catholic Church, and for the energy with which it extended its activity in all directions, is balanced by concern at the absence of those many elements of freedom and directness, united, however, by an inward bond, which the primitive age possessed. Although we are compelled gratefully to acknowledge that this Church repelled all attempts to let the Christian religion simply dissolve into contemporary thought, and protected itself against the acute phase of Hellenisation, still we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it had to pay a high price for maintaining its position. Let us determine a little more precisely what the alteration was which was effected in it, and on which we have already touched.
The first and most prominent change is the way in which freedom and independence in matters of religion is endangered. No one is to feel and count himself a Christian, that is to say, a child of God, who has not previously subjected his religious knowledge and experience to the controlling influence of the Church’s creed. The “Spirit” is confined within the narrowest limits, and forbidden to work where and as it will. Nay, more; not only is the individual, except in special cases, to begin by being a minor and by obeying the Church; he is never to become of full age, that is to say, he is never to lose his dependence on doctrine, on the priest, on public worship, and on the “book.” It was then that what we still specifically call the Catholic form of godliness, in contrast with Evangelicalism, originated. A blow was dealt to the direct and immediate element in religion; and for any individual to restore it afresh for himself became a matter of extraordinary difficulty.