No religious revolution has ever been successful which has commenced with the government. Such revolutions have ever begun in the middle or lower orders of society, struck on some responsive chord of sympathy in the general feeling, supplied some religious want, stirred some religious energy, and shaken the inert strength of the established faith by some stronger counter-emotion.
Henry H. Milman: Lat. Chris., vol. ii. b. iv., ch. vii.
Rome must be imagined in the vastness and uniformity of its social condition, the mingling and confusion of races, languages, conditions, in order to conceive the slow, imperceptible, yet continuous progress of Christianity. Amid the affairs of the universal empire, the perpetual revolutions which were constantly calling up new dynasties, or new masters over the world, the pomp and state of the imperial palace, the commerce, the business flowing in from all parts of the world, the bustle of the Basilicas or courts of law, the ordinary religious ceremonies, or the more splendid rites on signal occasions, which still went on, if with diminishing concourse of worshippers, with their old sumptuousness, magnificence, and frequency, the public games, the theatres, the gladiatorial shows, the Lucullan or Apician banquets, Christianity was gradually withdrawing from the heterogeneous mass some of all orders, even slaves, out of the vices, the ignorance, the misery, of that corrupted social system. It was instilling humanity, yet unknown, or coldly commended by an impotent philosophy, among men and women whose infant ears had been habituated to the shrieks of dying gladiators; it was giving dignity to minds prostrated by years, almost centuries, of degrading despotism; it was nurturing purity and modesty of manners in an unspeakable state of deprivation; it was enshrining the marriage-bed in a sanctity long almost entirely lost, and rekindling to a steady warmth the domestic affections; it was substituting a simple, calm, and rational faith and worship for the worn-out superstitions of heathenism; gently establishing in the soul of man the sense of immortality till it became a natural and inextinguishable part of his moral being.