[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

was consulted by the younger Thcodosius, in the most important concerns of the church and state. His remains were transported from the mountain of Telenissa, by a solemn procession of the patriarch, the master-general of the East, six bishops, twenty-one counts or tribunes, and sii thousand soldiers; and Antioch revered his bones, as her glorious ornament and impregnable defence. The fame of the apostles and martyra was gradually eclipsed by these recent and popular anachorets; the Christian world ft.ll prostrate before their shrines; and the miracles ascribed to their relics exceeded, at least in number and duration, the spiritual exploits of their lives. But the golden legend of their lives* was embellished by the artful credulity of their interested brethren; and a believing age was easily persuaded, that the slightest caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk had been sufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the universe. The favourites of Heaven were accustomed to cure inveterate diseases with a touch, a word, or a distant message; and to expel the most obstinate demons from the souls or bodies which they possessed. They familiarly accosted, or imperiously commanded, the lions and serpents of the desert; infused vegetation into a sapless trunk; suspended iron on the surface of the water; passed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and refreshed themselves in a fiery furnace. These extravagant talcs, which display the fiction, without the genius, of poetry, have seriously affected the reason, the faith, and the morals of the Christians. Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the mind; they corrupted the evidence of history; and superstition gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science. Every mode of religious worship which had been practised by the saints, every mysterious doctrine which they believed, was fortified by the sanction of divine revelation, and all the manly virtues were oppressed by the servile and pusillanimous reign of the monks. If it be possible to measure the interval between

* I know not how to select or specify the miracles contained in the Vita Patrum of Roaweyde, as the number very much exceeds the thousand pages of that voluminous work. An elegant specimen may he found in the Dialogues of Sulpicius Severus, and his life of St. Martin. He reveres the monks of Egypt; yet he insults them with the remark, that they never raised the dead; whereas the bishop of Tours had restored three dead men to life.




the philosophic -writings of Cicero and the sacred legend of Theodoret, between the character of Cato and that of Simeon, we may appreciate the memorable revolution "which -was accomplished in the Homan empire within a period of five hundred years.*

II. The progress of Christianity has been marked by two glorious and decisive victories: over the learned and luxurious citizens oi the Koman empire; and over the warlike barbarians of Scythia and Germany, who subverted the empire, and embraced the religion, of the Romans. The Goths were the foremost of these savage proselytes; and the nation was indebted for its conversion to a countryman, or, at least, to a subject, worthy to be ranked among the inventors of useful arts, who have deserved the remembrance and gratitude of posterity. A great number of Koman provincials had been led away into captivity by the Gothic bands, who ravaged Asia in the time of Gallienus: and of these captives, many were Christians, and several belonged to the ecclesiastical order. Those involuntary missionaries, dispersed aa slaves in the villages of Dacia, successively laboured for the salvation of their masters. The seeds which they planted, of the evangelic doctrine, were gradually propagated; and before the end of a century, the pious work was achieved by the labours of Ulphilas, whose ancestors had been transported beyond the Danube, from a small town of Cappadocia.

Ulphilas, the bishop and apostle of the Goths,f acquired

* [The term of five hundred years is too long and begins too early. The degeneracy of Roman character and talent does not date from the age that immediately followed that of Cicero and Cato. No marked deterioration is perceptible till after the beginning of the second century. The change then came on gradually. It may be more accurately measured, by comparing Theodoret and Prosper with Pliny or Tacitus, and seeing Simeon Stylites on his pillar more revered , \ than Antonine on his throne. It is important to mark the date, for it will be found, that Roman decay began soon after the Christian priesthood erected themselves into a hierarchy, received endowments, coveted more, manoeuvred for the acquisition of wealth, and used ignorance and superstition as their purveyors. Public debasement and episcopal aggrandizement went on together, "passibus Kquis."—Ed.] T On the subjert of Ulphilas, and the con

version of the Goths, see Sozomen, 1. 6, c. 37; Socrates, 1. i, c. 33; Theodoret, 1. 4, c. 37; Philostorg. 1 . 2, c 5. The heresy of Philoatorgius appears to have given him superior means of information.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

their love and reverence by hia blameless life and inde. i'atigable zeal; and they received, with implicit confidence, the doctrines of truth and virtue, which he preached and practised. He executed the arduous task of translating the Scriptures into their native tongue, a dialect of the German or Teutonic language; but he prudently suppressed the four books ot Kings, as they might tend to irritate the fierce and sanguinary spirit of the barbarians. The rude,

[Most ancient and many modern writers have been go occupied in debating, whether and why Ulphilas was an Arian, whether he lived in the time of Constantine or of Valens, and whether he was the inventor 01 the alphabet used in his translation of the Scriptures, that they have overlooked the most instructive lesson to be gathered from what we know of him. These discussions may be found in Neander's Hist. of Chris. vol. iii, p. 177, and Mallet's Northern Ant. with Bishop Percy's Notes, p. 223, edit. Bohn. Wolff or Wblfel, the real name of Ulphilas, is manifestly Gothic. Yet, as Neander suggests, it may have been adopted by him, though of a Cappadocian family, to ingratiate himself with the Moesiau colony among whom he was born and had long been resident. He certainly acquired great influence over them, and by his translation ol the Scriptures into their language, marked an important era in the history of their progress. It was the first book that they ever possessed. The manuscript, mentioned by Gibbon, was discovered in the abbey of Werden, in Westphalia, and is believed to be the "identical version of Ulphilas." It is preserved in the library of Upsal under the name of the " Codex Argenteus," the letters being all of silver, with gold initials, on a violet-coloured vellum. They are stamped with hot metal types, like titles on the backs of books, and show that at that early period the art of printing was all but invented. Other fragments have been discovered in the library at Wolfenbiittel and by Cardinal Mai at Rome, by means of which a complete edition was published in 1836, at Leipzig. In these manuscripts, the letters are quite different from the Runic, and bishop Percy admits that they must have been invented by Ulphilas, as ancient writers expressly assert. Niebuhr (Lectures, 3. 317) ascribes to them a rather earlier origin, for he says that when the Visigoths crossed the Danube, in the time of the emperor Valens, "they had a national civilization of their own, and already possessed an alphabet, invented for them by Ulphilas." No discordant statements can however cloud or conceal the fact which here stands prominent to fix oar attention. Intercourse with the Roman world had so far improved the Goths, that the first preliminary step to all education and enlightenment was decidedly taken, and they Were fit to receive the means of acquiring and diffusing knowledge. All their alleged incapacity and aversion for learning is here at once disproved. Yet such were the obstacles by which this progress was impeded, that the Gothic mind had to struggle against them for a thousand years, after the days of Ulphilas, before it could assert its native privilege of working freely.— 132


imperfect idiom of soldiers and shepherds, so ill qualified to communicate any spiritual ideas, was improved and modulated by his genius; and Ulphilas, before he could frame his rersion, was obliged to compose a new alphabet of twentyfour letters; four of which he invented, to express the peculiar sounds that were unknown to the Greek and Latin pronunciation.* But the prosperous state of the Gothic church was soon afflicted by war and intestine discord, and the chieftains were divided by religion as well as by interest. Fritigern, the friend of the Romans, became the proselyte ©f Ulphilas; while the haughty soul of Athanaric disdained the yoke of the empire, and of the gospel. The faith of the new converts was tried by the persecution which he excited. A wagon, bearing aloft the shapeless image of Thor, perhaps, or of Woden, was conducted in solemn procession through the streets of the camp; and the rebels, who refused to worship the God of their fathers, were immediately burnt, with their tents and families. The character of Ulphilas recommended him to the esteem of the Eastern. court, where he twice appeared as the minister of peace; he pleaded the cause of the distressed Goths, who implored the protection of Valens; and the name of Hoses was applied to this spiritual guide, who conducted his people, through the deep waters of the Danube, to the Land of Promise.f The devout shepherds, who were attached to his person, and tractable to his voice, acquiesced in their settlement, at the foot of the Mcesian mountains, in a country of woodlands and pastures, which supported their flocks and herds, and enabled them to purchase the corn and wine of the more plentiful provinces. These harmless barbarians multiplied in obscure peace, and the profession of Christianity.J

* A mutilated copy of the four gospels, in the Gothic version, "waa published A.d. 1665, and is esteemed the most ancient monument of the Teutonic language, though Wetstein attempts, by some frivolous conjectures, to deprive Ulphilas of the honour of the work. Two of the four additional letters express the W, and our own Th. See Simon, Hist. Critique du Nouveau Testament, tom. ii, p. 219—223. Mill, Prolegom. p. 151, edit. Kuster; Wetstein, Prolegom. tom. i, p. 114.

+ Philostorgius erroneously places this passage under the reign of Constantine; but I am much inclined to believe that it preceded the great emigration. J We are obliged to Jornandes (de Reb.

Get. c. 51, p. 688) for a short and lively picture of these lesser Goths. Gothi minores, populus immensus, cum suo Pontifice ipsoque primate VTulfila. The last words, if they are not mere tautology, imply some A.D. 400.J CONVERSION OF THE GOTHIC NATIONS. 133

Their fiercer brethren, the formidable Visigoths, universally adopted the religion of the Bomans, with whom they maintained a perpetual intercourse of war, of friendship, or of conquest. In their long and victorious march from the Danube to the Atlantic ocean, they converted their allies; they educated the rising generation; and the devotion which reigned in the camp of Alaric, or the court of Thoulouse, might edify, or disgrace, the palaces of Rome and Constantinople.* During the same period, Christianity was embraced by almost all the barbarians, who established their kingdoms on the ruins of the Western empire; the Burgundians in Gaul, the Suevi in Spain, the Vandals iu Africa, the Ostrogoths in Pannouia, and the various bands of mercenaries, that raised Odoacer to the throne of Italy. The Franks and the Saxons still persevered in the errors of Paganism; but the Franks obtained the monarchy of Gaul by their submission to the example of Clovis; "and the Saxon conquerors of Britain were reclaimed from their savage superstition by the missionaries of Bome. These barbarian proselytes displayed an ardent and successful zeal in the propagation of the faith. The Merovingian kings, and their successors, Charlemagne and the Othos, extended, by their laws and victories, the dominion of the cross. England produced the apostle of Germany; and the evangelic light was gradually diffused from tho neighbourhood of the Bhine, to the nations of the Elbe, the Vistula, and the Baltic.f

The different motives which influenced the reason, or the passions, of the barbarian converts, cannot easily be ascertained. They were often capricious and accidental: a dream, an omen, the report of a miracle, the example of some priest or hero, the charms of a believing wife, and, above all, the fortunate event of a prayer or vow, which, in a moment of danger, they had addressed to the God of the Christians.}; The early prejudices of education were intemporal jurisdiction. * At non ita Gothi, non ita Vandali; malis licet doctoribus instituti, meliores tamen etiam in hac parte quam nostri. Salvian de Gubern. Dei, 1. 7, p. 243.

+ Moshcim has slightly sketched the progress of Christianity in the North, from the fourth to the fourteenth century. The subject would afford materials for an ecclesiastical, and even philosophical, history.

I To such a cause has Socrates (1. 7, c. 30) ascribed the conversion of the Burgundians, whose Christian piety is celebrated by Orositug

« ForrigeFortsett »