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forgotten. For many centuries it was rare for a layman, of whatever rank, to know how to sign his name.” “ Even the clergy were, for a long period, not very materially superior, as a body, to the uninstructed laity.”
« This universal ignorance was rendered unavoidable, among other causes, by the scarcity of books, which could only be procured at an immense price. From the conquest of Alexandria by the Saracens, at the beginning of the seventh century, when the Egyptian papyrus almost ceased to be imported into Europe, to the close of the tenth, about which time the art of making paper from linen rags seems to have been introduced, there were no materials for writing except parchment-a substance too expensive to be readily spared for mere purposes of literature.” " If it be demanded by what cause it happened, that a few sparks of ancient learning survived throughout this long winter, we can only ascribe their preservation to the establishment of Christianity. Religion alone made a bridge, as it were, across the chaos, and linked the two periods of ancient and modern civilisation. Without this connecting principle, Europe might, indeed, have awakened to intellectual pursuits, and the genius of recent times needed not to be invigorated by the imitation of antiquity. But the memory of Greece and Rome would have been feebly preserved by tradition ; and the monuments of these nations might have excited, on the return of civilisation, that vagrie sentiment of speculation and wonder with which men now contemplate Persepolis, or the pyramids."
The destiny of the Eastern empire, if it was not more happy, was somewhat different. On the African shores, and in the fairest provinces of Asia, religion, and every remain of Grecian or of Roman improvement, were totally destroyed by swarms of a new species of fanaties, which the too celebrated Mahomet, or Mohammed, had raised and organised in the deserts of Arabia. Constantinople, the seat of the Grecian emperor, was indeed, by a merciful dispensation of Providence, preserved during almost all this dark period, to be the depository of ancient knowledge and improvement, till Europe should again be in a state to receive and cultivate them with advantage. It were, indeed, to be wished, that we had documents sufficient to prove that, during this long period, the city of the Christian emperor was also the safe depository of true religion : it certainly was of the forms and institutions of Christianity, we may say, of the archives of the church ; for not only her ancient history, but even the language of the New Testament itself, was almost lost and
forgotten in Europe. What history discloses concerning the state of religion in Constantinople and its dependencies, is the progress of corruption, more speedy and more entire than even in the West; but still there was probably, to the very last, a small remnant that worshipped God in spirit and in truth. This Christian kingdom, however, soon began to be cut short, by the devastation of a second race of Mahometans, the Othman Turks, who hemmed it in on all sides, and at last seized on its imperial capital.
In treating of the history of this long and barren period, it may be more for the advantage of the reader, to consider it together, as a connected whole, and to trace the several events, as they concern the history of religion, from beginning to end throughout the period, or the space they occupy therein, rather than to make distinct subjects of each separate century. These eras of time, indeed, so useful to measure the march of the more eventful periods of history, may now be more neglected, as the unobserved watches of the night. For what can be expected from the ecclesiastical historian, when the writer of general history, on entering upon this period, has to observe, that“ many considerable portions of time”—“ may justly be deemed so barren of events worthy of remembrance, that a single sentence or paragraph is often sufficient to give the character of entire generations, and of long dynasties of obscure kings !.”
In pursuing, therefore, the history of this long, dark period, I shall first notice the decay and almost extinction of the profession of the Christian religion in the East, catching, if I can, some glimpses of the departing day, for here no morning dawn has as yet appeared — unless, indeed, at this very moment, we see it spread upon the mountains of Greece. I shall next turn to the history of the European states, numbering the ecclesiastical state among them, for we want a new name for the fabric which is no longer the ground and pillar of the truth, but denies and persecutes it. The chief object, however, of this history all along, is, to record the evidences of the existence of true religion, whether we can shew them among the members of the Roman catholic community, or in the different sects which from time to time spring up; and our special regard will be demanded for any faithful witnesses whom the grace of God may raise up to maintain any part of the truth, or to testify to an apostate and idolatrous race, that they should turn from their abominations, to worship the living and true God.
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
HISTORY OF THE GRECIAN EMPIRE, AND OF THE IMPERIAL
The fall of the imperial authority had, in fact, left the Roman empire, in its restricted sense, without a head; but the successor of Cæsar and Augustus still reigned over Greece, Asia, and Egypt, and retained a nominal supremacy in Rome and Italy, which was to be revived again. “ After the fall of the Roman empire in the West,” says Mr. Gibbon, “ an interval of fifty years, till the memorable reign of Justinian', is faintly marked by the obscure names and imperfect annals of Zeno, Anastasius, and Justin.” During the same period, Italy revived and flourished under the government of a Gothic king. Odoacer, the king of those barbarians distinguished by the name of Heruli, who had abolished the dignity of the Western emperor”, had been overpowered by the victorious arms of Theodorico, king of the Ostrogoths. He had been educated as a royal hostage in the court of Constantinople. Zeno had assented to his invasion of Italy, and had given “ a tardy, reluctant, and ambiguous consent to his assumption of the regal title after his success.” “ It was left in doubt whether the conqueror of Italy should reign as the lieutenant, the vassal, or the ally of the emperor of the East.” But, in fact, hardly a nominal supremacy was reserved : the Romans received him as a deliverer,-- Italy enjoyed some rest from the ravages of war, and Theodoric maintained, with a powerful hand, the balance of the West, till it was overthrown by the ambition of Clovis.
After the death of Theodoric*, his daughter Amalasontha reigned as guardian of her son, Athalaric : and, in succession, Theodatus and Vitiges, when the victories of Belisarius recovered the possession of Rome: and Italy for the emperor Justinian. Ten years after, Rome was again wrested from the imperial generals, by the Gothic tribes united under Totila ; “ a third part of the walls were demolished by his command, fire and engines prepared to consume or subvert the most stately works of antiquity;--- and the world was astonished by the fatal decree that Rome should be changed into a pasture for cattle.” “ The firm and temperate remonstrance of Belisarius suspended the execution.” “ The senators were dragged in the train of Totila, and afterwards confined in the fortresses of Campanja; the citizens, with their wives and children, were dispersed in exile; and during forty days Rome was abandoned to desolate and dreary solitude. After the departure of Totila, Belisarius sallied from his station, cut in pieces those who opposed his progress, and visited with pity and reverence the vacant place of the Eternal City. Resolved to maintain a station so conspicuous in the eyes of mankind, he summoned the greatest part of his troops to the standard which he erected in the capitol ; the old inhabitants were recalled by the love of their country and the hopes of food, and the keys of Rome sent a second time to the emperor Justinian."
3 A.D. 493.
I A.D. 527. * A.D. 526.
? A.D. 476.
After the departure of Belisarius, Rome again fell into the hand of Totila? ; but after his defeat and death', it was finally conquered by the eunuch Narses. “ The fate of the senate," observes Mr. Gibbon, " suggests an awful lesson of the vicissitude of human affairs. Of the senators whom Totila had banished from their country, some were rescued by an officer of Belisarius, and transported from Campania to Sicily, while others were too guilty to confide in the clemency of Justinian, or too poor to provide horses for their escape to the sea-shore. Their brethren languished five years in a state of indigence and exile. The victory of Narses revived their hopes, but their premature return to the metropolis was prevented by the furious Goths, and all the fortresses of Campania were stained with patrician blood. After a period of thirteen centuries, the institution of Romulus expired; and if the nobles of Rome still assumed the title of senators, few subsequent traces can be discovered of a public council or constitutional order.” "Ascend,” says Mr. Gibbon,“ six hundred years, and contemplate the kings of the earth soliciting an audience, as the slaves or freedmen of the Roman senate.”
After the defeat and death of Teias *, the last king of the Goths, they retired or mingled with the people. The exarchs of Ravenna governed the whole of Italy in the name of the Eastern emperor, and a duke was stationed for the defence and military command of each of the principal cities. Thus was the imperial authority, which seemed to have been for ever extinguished by the sword of the Heruli and Ostrogoths, once more restored in the ancient capitol'.
I A.D. 549.
3 A.D. 552.
4 A.D. 563.
The reign of Justinian forms a new era in the history of the Roman world, chiefly on account of his legislative enactments and his new modelling of the constitution of the empire. This afterwards supplied a pattern for the regulation both of the civil and ecclesiastical states in many of the nations of Europe, and, giving a similarity to their customs and laws, has held them together as by a common tie, while their different pertinency in retaining the traditions of their barbarian ancestors, has introduced a variety of national character. The restored and new regulated empire of Justinian, afforded, in an especial manner, a model for the future spiritual monarchy of papal Rome?.
Justinian recovered Africa as well as Italy to his dominions ; and though he was most arbitrary and imperious in his government of the church, he much increased the external splendour of her establishment, and added many barbarian kings and nations to the Christian profession. In the erection of the magnificent church of St. Sophia, at Constantinople, which at this day supports the Turkish crescent, he vainly boasted that he had outdone Solomon. “But the triple scourge of war, pestilence, and famine, afflicted the subjects of Justinian; and his reign is disgraced by a visible decrease of the human species, which has never been repaired, in some of the fairest countries of the globe.” In the latter part of the eentury, the peace of Italy was again disturbed by the invasion of the Lombards, who, following the steps of the Heruli and Ostrogoths, long impeded the reviving prosperity of the Roman state. “From the Trentine hills to the gates of Ravenna and Rome, the inland regions of Italy became, without a battle or a siege, the lasting patrimony of the Lombards. “The distress of the inhabitants of the Roman city was very great, and the court of Constantinople was too weak to render them any assistance.” Gregory, bishop of Rome, informs the emperor, in his letter, “With these eyes have I seen Romans, like dogs, tied with cords, and dragged to be sold as slaves among the Franks."
The remaining history of the Eastern empire, and of those countries which first received the light of the Gospel, so far as
'Perhaps what is represented in prophecy, Rev. xiii. 3.