Now the Christian
idea has to do with the human soul, which Christianity may be almost said to have in, vented.
While all Paganism represents a few preemi-nent families, the founders of dynasties or ancestors of races, as of kin with the gods, Christianity makes every pedigree end in Deity, makes monarch and slave the children of one God.
Its heroes struggle not against, but upward and onward toward
, the higher powers who are always on their side.
Its highest conception of beauty is not aesthetic, but moral.
With it prosperity and adversity have exchanged meanings.
It finds enemies in those worldly good-fortunes where Pagan and even Hebrew literature saw the highest blessing, and invincible allies in sorrow, poverty, humbleness of station, where the former world recognized only implacable foes.
While it utterly abolished all boundary lines of race or country and made mankind unitary, its hero is always the individual man whoever and wherever he may be. Above all, an entirely new conception of the Infinite and of man's relation to it came in with Christianity.
That, and not the finite, is always the background, consciously or not. It changed the scene of the last act of every drama to the next world.
Endless aspiration of all the faculties became thus the ideal of Christian life, and to express it more or less perfectly the ideal of essentially Christian art. It was this which the Middle Ages
instinctively typified in the Gothic cathedral
,— no accidental growth, but the visible symbol of an inward faith,—which soars forever upward, and yearns toward heaven like a martyr-flame suddenly turned to stone.
It is not without significance that Goethe
, who, like Dante
, also absorbed and represented the tendency and spirit of his age, should, during his youth and while Europe
was alive with the moral and intellectual longing