Though sectarianism is thus by no means a serious political danger, it has nevertheless a considerable political significance. It proves satisfactorily that the Russian people is by no means so docile and pliable as is commonly supposed, and that it is capable of showing a stubborn, passive resistance to authority when it believes great interests to be at stake. The dogged energy which it has displayed in asserting for centuries its religious liberty may perhaps some day be employed in the arena of secular politics.
CHURCH AND STATE
The Russian Orthodox Church—Russia Outside
of the Mediaeval Papal
Commonwealth—Influence of the Greek Church—Ecclesiastical History of
Russia—Relations between Church and State—Eastern Orthodoxy and the
Russian National Church—The Synod—Ecclesiastical Grumbling—Local
Ecclesiastical Administration—The Black Clergy and the Monasteries—The
Character of the Eastern Church Reflected in the History of Religious
Art—Practical Consequences—The Union Scheme.
From the curious world of heretics and Dissenters let us pass now to the Russian Orthodox Church, to which the great majority of the Russian people belong. It has played an important part in the national history, and has exercised a powerful influence in the formation of the national character.
Russians are in the habit of patriotically and proudly congratulating themselves on the fact that their forefathers always resisted successfully the aggressive tendencies of the Papacy, but it may be doubted whether, from a worldly point of view, the freedom from Papal authority has been an unmixed blessing for the country. If the Popes failed to realise their grand design of creating a vast European empire based on theocratic principles, they succeeded at least in inspiring with a feeling of brotherhood and a vague consciousness of common interest all the nations which acknowledged their spiritual supremacy. These nations, whilst remaining politically independent and frequently coming into hostile contact with each other, all looked to Rome as the capital of the Christian world, and to the Pope as the highest terrestrial authority. Though the Church did not annihilate nationality, it made a wide breach in the political barriers, and formed a channel for international communication by which the social and intellectual progress of each nation became known to all the other members of the great Christian confederacy. Throughout the length and breadth of the Papal Commonwealth educated men had a common language, a common literature, a common scientific method, and to a certain extent a common jurisprudence. Western Christendom was thus all through the Middle Ages not merely an abstract conception or a geographical expression: if not a political, it was at least a religious and intellectual unit, and all the countries of which it was composed benefited more or less by the connection.