« AnteriorContinuar »
Extension of Mohammedanism.
therefore occupation to disputatious sectarians, and consolation to illiterate minds.
Thus settled on the north of Africa the lurid form of the Arabian crescent, one horn reaching to the Bosphorus, and one pointing beyond the Pyrenees. For awhile it seemed Moham
medanism that the portentous meteor would increase to the full, and that
on Chris all Europe would be enveloped. Christianity had lost for ever tianity. the most interesting countries over which her influence had once spread, Africa, Egypt, Syria, with the Holy Land, Asia Minor, Spain. She was destined, in the end, to lose in the same manner the metropolis of the East. In exchange for these ancient and illustrious regions, she fell back on Gaul, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia. In those savage countries, what were there to be offered as substitutes for the great capitals, illustrious in ecclesiastical history, for ever illustrious in the records of the human race,-Carthage, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople? It was an evil exchange. The labours, intellectual and physical, of which those cities had once been the scene; the preaching, and penances, and prayers so lavishly expended in them, had not produced the anticipated, the asserted result. In theology and morality the people had pursued a descending course. Patriotism was extinct. They surrendered the state to preserve their sect; their treason was rewarded by subjugation. From these melancholy events we may learn that the prin
Reflections ciples on which the moral world is governed are analogous to course of those which obtain in the physical. It is not by incessant divine interpositions, which produce breaches in the continuity of historic action; it is not by miracles and prodigies that the course of events is determined; but affairs follow each other in the relation of cause and effect. The maximum developement of early Christianity coincided with the boundaries of the Roman empire; the ecclesiastical condition depended on the political, and, indeed, was its direct consequence and issue. The loss of Africa and Asia was, in like manner, connected with the Arabian movement, though it would have been easy to prevent that catastrophe, and to preserve those continents to the faith by the smallest of those innumerable miracles of
Reflections. which Church history is full, and which were often performed on unimportant and obscure occasions. But not even one such miracle was vouchsafed, though an angel might have worthily descended. I know of no event in the history of our race on which a thoughtful man may more profitably meditate than on the loss of Africa and Asia. It may remove from his mind many erroneous ideas, and lead him to take a more elevated, a more philosophical, and therefore more correct view of the course of earthly events.
THE AGE OF FAITH IN THE WEST.
ROM the Age of Faith in the East, I have now to turn to The Age of
Faith in the Age of Faith in the West. The former, as we have the West. seen, ended prematurely, through a metamorphosis of the populations by military operations, conquests, polygamy; the latter, under more favourable circumstances, gradually completed its predestined phases, and, after the lapse of many centuries, passed into the Age of Reason.
If so many recollections of profound interest cluster around Jerusalem," the Holy City" of the East, many scarcely inferior are connected with Rome, “the Eternal City" of the West. The Byzantine system, which, having originated in the po- Is essen
tially mark. licy of an ambitious soldier struggling for supreme power, and ed by the in the devices of ecclesiastics intolerant of any competitors, tion of rehad spread itself all over the eastern and southern portions of ligion. the Roman empire, and with its hatred of human knowledge and degraded religious ideas and practices, had been adopted at last even in Italy : not by the Romans, for they had ceased to exist, but by the medley of Goths and half-breeds, the occupants of that peninsula. Gregory the Great is the incarnation of the ideas of this debased population. That evil system so carefully nurtured by Constantine and cherished by all the Oriental bi. shops, had been cut down by the axe of the Vandal, the Persian, the Arab, in its native seats, but the offshoot of it that had been planted in Rome developed spontaneously with unexpected luxuriance, and cast its dark shadow over Europe for many centuries. He who knew what religion had been in the
Etfects of the loss of
apostolic days, might look with boundless surprise on what was now engrafted upon it, and was passing under its name.
In the last Chapter we have seen how, through the Vandal Africa on invasion, Africa was lost to the empire,-a dire calamity, for events in Italy. of all the provinces, it had been the least expensive and the
most productive; it yielded men, money, and, what was perhaps of more importance, corn for the use of Italy. A sudden stoppage of the customary supply rendered impossible the usual distributions in Rome, Ravenna, Milan. A famine fell upon Italy, bringing in its train an inevitable diminution of the population. To add to the misfortunes, Attila, the king of the Huns, or, as he called himself, “the Scourge of God," invaded the empire. The battle of Châlons, the convulsive death-throe of the Roman empire, arrested his career a.d. 451.
Four years after this event, through intrigues in the impepillage of
rial family, Genseric, the Vandal king, was invited from Africa to Rome. The atrocities which of old had been practised against Carthage under the auspices of the senate were now avenged. For fourteen days the Vandals sacked the city, perpetrating unheard-of cruelties. Their ships, brought into the Tiber, enabled them to accomplish their purpose of pillage far more effectually than would have been possible by any land expedition. The treasures of Rome, with multitudes of noble captives, were transported to Carthage. In twenty-one years after this time, A.D. 476, the Western Empire became extinct.
Thus the treachery of the African Arians not only brought the Vandals into the most important of all the provinces, so
far as Italy was concerned ; it also furnished an instrument Effects of for the ruin of Rome. But hardly had the Emperor Justinian Justinian. reconquered Africa, when he attempted the subjugation of the
Goths now holding possession of Italy. His general Belisarius captured Rome, December 10, A.D. 556. In the military operations ensuing with Vitiges, Italy was devastated, the population sank beneath the sword, pestilence, famine. In all directions the glorious remains of antiquity were destroyed ; statues, as those of the mole of Adrian, were thrown upon the besiegers of Rome. These operations closed by the surrender of Vitiges to Belisarius at the capture of Ravenna.
Contemporary State of Europe.
But, as soon as the military compression was withdrawn, revolt broke out. Rome was retaken by the Goths; its walls were razed; for forty days it was deserted by its inhabitants, an emigration that in the end proved its ruin. Belisarius, who had been sent back by the emperor, re-entered it, but was too weak to retain it. For four years Italy was ravaged by the Franks and the Goths. At last Justinian sent the eunuch Narses with a well-appointed army. The Ostrogothic monarchy was overthrown, and the emperor governed Italy by his exarchs at Ravenna.
But what was the cost of all this? We may reject the statement previously made, that Italy lost fifteen millions of inhabitants, on the ground that such computations were beyond the ability of the survivors, but, from the asserted number, we may infer that they had passed through a horrible catastrophe. In other directions the relics of civilization
ideas of the fast disappearing : the valley of the Danube had relapsed into incoming a barbarous state; the African shore had become a wilder- Faith. ness ; Italy, a hideous desert; and the necessary consequence of the extermination of the native Italians by war, and their replacement by barbarous adventurers, was the falling of the sparse population of that peninsula into a lower psychical state. It was ready for the materialized religion that soon ensued. An indelible aspect was stamped on the incoming Age of Faith. The East and the West had equally displayed the imbecility of ecclesiastical rule. Of both, the Holy City had fallen; Jerusalem had been captured by the Persian and Arab, Rome had been sacked by the Vandal and the Goth.
But, for the proper description of the course of affairs, I Steady promust retrace my steps a little. In the important political Rome to events coinciding with the death of Leo the Great, and the supremacy. constitution of the kingdom of Italy by the barbarian Odoacer, A.D. 476-490, the bishops of Rome seemed to have taken but little interest. Doubtless, on one side, they perceived the transitory nature of such incidents, and, on the other, clearly saw for themselves the road to lasting spiritual domination. The Christians everywhere had long expressed a total carelessness for the fate of old Rome; and in the midst of her