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Whether due ultimately to the Old Testament predictions or to the fragments of the original revelation handed down amongst the Gentile, a certain vague expectation of the coming of a great conqueror seems to have existed in the East and to a certain extent in the Roman worlds, in the midst of which the new religion had its birth.But a much more marked predisposition to Christianity may be noticed in certain prominent features of the Roman religion after the downfall of the republic. In their stead Greek philosophy occupied the minds of the cultured, whilst the populace were attracted by a variety of strange cults imported from Egypt and the East.All peoples alike retained some more or less vague recollection of a Paradise lost, a remote Golden Age, but only the spirit of Israel kept alive the definite hope of a world-wide empire of justice, wherein the Fall of Man should be repaired.
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In order the better to appreciate the meaning of this event, we must first consider the religious influences and tendencies previously at work in the minds of men, both Jews and Gentiles, which prepared the way for the spread of Christianity amongst them.
The whole history of the Jews as detailed in the Old Testament is seen, when read in the light of other events, to be a clear though gradual preparation for the preaching of Christianity.
The third antecedent condition to the birth of Christianity, as we learn from the sacred records , was a special participation of the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
According to Christ's promise, the function of this Divine gift was to teach them all truth and bring back to their remembrance all that [ Christ ] had said to them ( John ; ).
Mistaken national pride, accentuated by their galling subject to Rome led them to read a material significance into the predictions of the triumph of the Messias, and hence to love their privilege of being God's chosen people. Paul's metaphor ( Romans ) was then grafted upon the stock of the patriarchs in place of those rejected branches, and entered upon their spiritual inheritance.
We may trace, too, in the world at large, apart from the Jewish people, a similar though less direct preparation.
In the following article an account is given of Christianity as a religion, describing its origin, its relation to other religions, its essential nature and chief characteristics, but not dealing with its doctrines in detail nor its history as a visible organization.
These and other aspects of this great subject will receive treatment under separate titles.
They combined to destroy the notion of a nation cultus, and to separate the service of the Deity from the service of the State.