For, from the time that the Bishop of Rome had gotten to be acknowledged for bishop universal, by pretence of succession to St. Peter, their whole hierarchy, or kingdom of darkness, may be compared not unfitly to the kingdom of fairies; that is, to the old wives' fables in England concerning ghosts and spirits, and the feats they play in the night. And if a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof: for so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.
But its exclusive character and irreconcileable hostility to the religious cults and ceremonies with which the whole social life of the city-state and the empire were inseparably connected at every turn, brought the Christians into inevitable conflict with the government and with public opinion. To the man in the street, the Christian was an anti-social atheist who would take no part in the public feasts and the games, which played such a large part in city life. To the authorities he was a passive rebel, who would neither take his share of municipal offices nor pay loyal homage to the Emperor. Hence the rise of persecution, and the driving of the Christians into an underground existence, as a proscribed sect. The Church grew under the shadow of the executioner's rods and axes, and every Christian lived in the peril of physical torture and death. The thought of martyrdom coloured the whole outlook of early Christianity. But it was not only a fear, it was also an ideal and a hope. For the martyr was the complete Christian, he was the champion and hero of the new society and its conflict with the old, and even the Christians who failed in the moment of the trial - the lapsi - looked on the martyrs as their saviours and protectors