The Goths carried back these Christian captives (from Asia Minor)into Dacia, where they were settled, and where considerable numbers embraced Christianity through their instrumentality. Ulfilas was the child of one of these ChristianSee footnote 1
captives,and was trained in Christian principles.
Empire was practically halved. Profound changes took place in what remained of that empire, now limited to the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, in eastern
Lucian of Antioch was at the height of his career when Ulfilas was a lad. Asia Minor, the homeland of his ancestors, was, in the early years of the church, the scene of strong opposition to those allegorizing ecclesiastics who had been loaded with imperial favors by Constantine, and who were antagonistic to Lucian’s translation of the Bible and his system of teaching. Ulfilas was called to take his choice. He decided not to walk with the allegorizers. The Gothic Bible which he gave to the nations he converted follows in the main the Received Text transmitted to us by the learned Lucian
There is no reason to doubt that Ulfilas was perfectly honest in the theological position he occupied. As an earnest missionary, more concerned with practical evangelistic work than with theological controversy, he may have been thankful for a simple form of Christianity that he could make intelligible to his rough fellow countrymen more easily than one which was involved in subtle Greek metaphysics.See footnote 3
Although the Goths refused to believe as the church at Rome did, and as a consequence have been branded as Arians, Romanism actually meant little to them. In fact, it meant little to Ulfilas, their great leader.4 The Goths refused to go along with the mounting innovations being introduced into the church of the
their passion for martial campaigns with a settled, organized government and the upbuilding of their civilization. From 250 to about 500, the Teutonic masses poured over the provinces of western Europe and formed ten new nations. Among these ten were the two branches of the Goths — the Visigoths, or western Goths, and the Ostrogoths, or eastern Goths. Other invading tribes were the Franks, the Burgundians, the Vandals, the Anglo-Saxons, the Alamanni, the Heruli, and the Suevi. These were destined to become powerful nations of western Europe. The invading hosts settled in the Roman Empire, forming such kingdoms as England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Three other kingdoms arose from the migrations, and if they had not been conquered, the Heruli might now be ruling over central and southern Italy, the Vandals over northern Africa, and the Ostrogoths in southern Europe. For two centuries these questions hung in the balance: Would these newnations cling to their ancient Germanic paganism? Would they become converts to Celtic Christianity? Would they fall under the dominion of the church at Rome? It is a gripping story that reveals how they were converted, some at first to Gothic, but later all to Celtic, Christianity before they were subdued by hostile nations whose armies were urged on by the Papacy. Because Ulfilas belonged to the church which had refused to accept the extreme speculations concerning the Trinity, there was a gulf between his converts and those who followed Rome. Brought up in captivity, he had not witnessed the stirring scenes of the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). In that famous historic
It is a fact that formerly those who dwelt in the east were accustomed as a church to sanctify the Sabbath in the same manner as the Lord’s day, and to hold sacred assemblies; whereforeAsterius, bishop of Amasia in Pontus, in a homily on incompatibility called Sabbath and Sunday a beautiful span, and Gregory of Nyssa in a certain sermon calls these days brethren and therefore censures the luxury and the Sabbatarian pleasures; while on the other hand, the people of the west, contending for the Lord’s day, have neglected the celebration of the Sabbath, as being peculiar to the Jews. Whence Tertullian in his Apology: ‘We are only next to those who see in the Sabbath a day only for rest and relaxation.’ It is, therefore, possible for the Goths to have thought, as pupils of the discipline of the Greeks, that they should sanctify the Sabbath after the manner of the Greeks.See footnote 7
From a scholar and traveler describing the Muscovite Russian Church(Christians still dwelling in the region where tribes formerly had been affected by the teachings of Ulfilas) we learn that after their conversion they “ever since continued of the
They admit Priests’ MarriagesSee footnote 9
….That they reject the religious use of Massie, Images, or Statues, admitting yet Pictures or plaineImages in their Churches. That they solemnize Saturday (the old Sabbath) festivally, and eat therein flesh, forbidding as unlawful, to fast any Saturday in the year except Easter Eve.”
The Papacy for many centuries commanded fasting on Saturday and this created a dislike among the unthinking church members for the sacredness of the day.10
CONVERSION OF THE GOTHS BY ULFILAS
It would be impossible to obtain a correct understanding of the events which drove the church into the wilderness without realizing the large part in the drama which circled about the Goths. Tribe after tribe of the Teutons — the practically unknown peoples living north of the Danube —possessed the power of making crushing blows against settled states. Masses of humanity, capable of being mobilized into destructive invading armies, hung upon the confines of the Roman Empire. The revolution wrought by their migrations and decisive victories in battle will appear as we evaluate their place in history. To the surprise of all, the Goths were won to the gospel in an astonishingly short time, not by the persuasion of Rome, but by Ulfilas. While the church at Rome was grasping after secular power, these churches were alive with missionary zeal. Onward then came those mighty armies of the invading hosts. Giant men seated on war steeds preceded the covered wagons in which were women, children, and earthly possessions. Province after province fell before their powerful battle-axes. The Roman populace either perished or fled to mountains and dens. Finally, in 409, the invaders arrived before Rome. After conquering the city which for centuries had terrified the world, they retired. But they returned after several decades for the final conquest of Italy. The Goths and the Vandals did not fight because of a bloodthirsty temperament, but because they were blocked by the Romans when driven westward by the wild masses from Scythia and Siberia. The historian Walter F. Adeney has pictured the spirit and methods of the Goths when they sacked Rome in 410:
In the first place, it was a great thing for Europe that when the Goths poured over Italy and even captured Rome they came as a Christian people,See footnote 11
reverencingand sparing the churches, and abstaining from those barbarities that accompanied the invasion of Britain by the heathen Saxons. But, in the second place, many of these simple Gothic Christians learned to their surprise that they were heretics,and that only when their efforts toward fraternizing with their fellow Christians in the orthodoxChurch were angrily resented.
The following words from Thomas Hodgkin show how superior were these invading hosts to the corrupt condition of the state church in north-em
August had said: ‘I came from my native town to Carthage, and everywhere around me roared the furnace of unholy loveSee footnote 12
….Houses of ill-fame swarming in each street and square, and haunted by men of the highest rank, and what should have been venerable age;chastity outside the ranks of the clergy a thing unknown and unbelieved, and by no means universal within that enclosure; the
darker vices, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah practiced, avowed,gloried in’ — such is the picture which the Gaulish presbyter draws of the capital of Africa. Into this city of sin marched the Vandal army, one might almost say, when one reads the history of their doings, the army of the Puritans. With all their cruelty and all their
greedthey kept themselves unspotted by the licentiousness of the splendid city. They banished the men who were earning their living by ministering to the vilest lusts. They rooted out prostitution with a wise yet not a cruel hand. In short, Carthage, under the rule of the Vandals, was a city transformed, barbarous but moral.
THE 1260-YEAR PROPHECY OF THE LITTLE HORN
Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them
; andhe shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great wordsagainstthe Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws ; andthey shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and todestroy it unto the end.”
The chain of prophecy in Daniel 7 reveals by the means of animal symbols, the succession of world events from the time of the prophetic writer until the second coming of Christ. On the head of the fourth beast of Daniel’s prophecy, which beast is often interpreted to be the fourth universal monarchy, the Roman Empire, are seen ten horns. Commentators correctly conclude that these are the ten Germanic kingdoms which invaded, broke up, and took possession of the western part of the RomanEmpire, or the original territory of the fourth beast. The rise of the “little horn,” its growth in power, its plucking up of three of the ten horns, and its stout words against God, accompanied by the 1260-year persecution of the saints, must now claim attention. Clovis was the king of the Franks, one of the pagan tribes which had previously crossed the empire’s frontiers into the province of Gaul. His father before him had worked devotedly with Rome’s bishops. Clovis met and successfully overthrew the feeble resistance of the empire’s army. His next formidable enemy was the pagan Alamanni, later to be called theGermans.13 He had a long and bloody battle with them in which he successfully resisted their invasion. Previous to this, he had married Clotilda, daughter of the king of the Burgundians, and a devout Catholic.
Observing the power and influence of the Papacy, and anxious to avail himself of papal support, he professed conversion in 496, and his entire following united with him in adherence to Catholicism, three thousand of whom were baptized along with himself soon after his conversion. As he expected, the Catholics rallied around him as the only Catholic prince in the West.See footnote 14
The Teutonic kingdoms which had occupied other Roman provinces, as well as France, were either continuing in their idolatry or
The Frank king threw his sword into the scale against the ArianSee footnote 17
cause,and became the champion and hope of the Catholic population all over Gaul. The invaders had at length arrived, who were to remain. It was decided that the Franks, and not the Goths, were to direct the future destinies of Gaul and Germany,and that the Catholic faith, and not Arianism, was the be the religion of these great realms.”
Again, from Dr. David J. Hill, former United States ambassador to Germany:
Up to the time ofSee footnote 18
Clovisthe invading hordes of the East had moved steadily westward ….Thenceforth that tide was to be turned backward, and conquest was to proceed in the opposite direction. The Franks alone, of all the barbarian races which had invaded the empire, werenot wholly absorbed by it; but kept, as it were, an open channel of communication with the great Germanic background. It was the Franks who, turning their faces eastward, not only checked further advances of the barbarians,but…were to become the defenders of Christendom.
As Prof. George Adams writes:
This question Clovis settled, not long after the beginning of his career, by his conversion to Catholic ChristianitySee footnote 19
….In these three ways, therefore, the work of Clovis was of creative influence upon the future. He brought together the Roman and the German upon equal terms, each preserving the sources of his strength to form a new civilization. He founded a political power which was to unite nearly all the continent in itself, and to BRING THE PERIOD OF THE INVASIONS TO AN END.”
Thus it was Clovis, king of the Franks, who in 508 put an end to the prospect that paganism might eventually be supreme.
He [Clovis] had on all occasions shown himself the heartless ruffian, the greedy conqueror, the bloodthirsty tyrant; but by hisSee footnote 20
conversionhe had led the way to the triumph of Catholicism; he had saved the Roman Church from the Scylla and Charybdis of heresy and paganism.”
Through Clovis a new era began. We quote now from Lewis Sergeant:
But after all the changes, it was the Franks who constantly grew strong, who built up a law, a church, and an empireSee footnote 21
….The baptism of Clovis, which implied the general conversion of the Franks to Christianity, set the crown on a century of striking successes for the western church.”
SUBJUGATION OF THE GOTHS BY EMPEROR JUSTINIAN
Thirty years after the victory of 508 the Papacy was elevated to universal supremacy by Justinian. The stage was already set. The victory of Clovis over the Visigoths in 508 which broke the centuries of pagan dominion did not necessarily eradicate paganism scattered elsewhere.
Thirty years later(A.D. 538) dominion passed to the Papacy, a theocracy which persecuted more severely than did paganism. It is generally recognized that a union of church and state is more intolerant than a political state. Fired by the victory of Clovis, the ecclesiastical power of Rome wasstirring everywhere. In northern
THE CHURCH FORCED INTO THE WILDERNESS
Justinian determined to make the rule of the Papacy universal within his dominion. In 532 he issued his famous edict which laid the foundation for the persecutions of the church which maintained the apostolic faith during the 1260 years. The distinction between the important dates of 532, 533, and 538 should now be considered. Archibald Bower says of the edict of Justinian:
By an edict which he issued to unite all men in one faith, whether Jews, Gentiles, or Christians, such as did not, in the term of three months, embrace and profess the Catholic faith, were declared infamous, and, as such, excluded from all employments both civil andSee footnote 23
miliary, rendered incapable of leaving anything by will, and their estates confiscated, whether real or personal. These were convincing arguments of the truth of the Catholic faith; but many, however, withstood them; and against such as did, the imperial edict was executed with the utmost rigor. Great numbers were driven from their habitations with their wives and children, stripped and naked. Others betook themselves to flight, carrying with them what they could conceal, for their support and maintenance; but they were plundered of the little they had, and many of them inhumanly massacred by the Catholic peasants, or the soldiery, who guarded the passes.
The emperor prescribed the faith of every man, and that faith consisted of the doctrines of Rome. There was no protest from the pope. The world dominion of paganism had come to an end; but a dominion more damaging to primitive Christianity, more blighting to the intellect, had taken its place. The edict of Justinian in 532 extended over the whole empire as far as it then stretched. When, however, northern Africa and Italy were conquered, this edict followed the imperial arms. The severe and ruinous application of the decree did not cease when the three months specified init ceased. It set the pace for the 1260-year period brought to view by the prophet Daniel. By the decree of
The conquest of Italy by the Greeks was, to a great extent at least, the work of the Catholic clergySee footnote 27
….The overthrow of the Gothic kingdom was to Italy an unmitigated evil ….In their overthrow began the fatal policy of the Roman See, fatal at least to Italy,…which never would permit a powerful native kingdom to unite Italy, or a very large part of it, under one dominion. Whatever it may have been to Christendom, the Papacy has been the eternal, implacable foe of Italian independence and Italian unity.
It makes little difference whether the self-appointed successor of Peter rules over ten square miles or ten million square miles. If
The reign of Justinian was a uniform yet various scene of persecution; and he appears to have surpassed his indolent predecessors, both in the contrivance of his laws and the rigor of their execution. The insufficient term of three months was assignedfor the conversion or exile of all heretics; and if he still connived attheir precarious stay, they were deprived, under his iron yoke, notonly of the benefits of society, but of the common birthright ofmen and Christians.
The Papacy has always held that her tradition is of equal authority with the Scriptures. Having “eyes like the eyes of man,”(Daniel 7:8.) the Papacy cried out, More power, more power. She immediately turned her wrath upon the refugees in Italy who had fled out of the East from the decree of Justinian in order to find security under the tolerant rule of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric. These joined the Waldenses who were convinced that the Papacy was the“little horn” of Daniel, and the “man of sin” of Paul’s writings.29 The Church of Rome accepted the persecuting policy of Justinian, even as she had accepted the exalted title he bestowed upon her. Then to the true church were given two wings of a great eagle that she might fly from the
“great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”Matthew 24:21.
The Dark Ages began. Implacable and unrelenting persecution was the resort of the church and state system. Wielding a power greater than that ever exercised by the
Ulfilas passed on. The church of the emperors, which he had ignored and whose teachings he refused to impart to the hordes of the north, later destroyed the sovereignty of those nations who professed his faith. Theywere conquered neither by New Testament teaching nor by missionaryeffort, but by the sword. Though
- Smith and Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, art. “Ulfilas.”
- Cheetham, A History of the Christian Church, p. 423.
- Adeney, The Greek and Eastern Churches, pp. 305, 306.
- Bradley, The Goths, p. 59.
- Limborch, The History of the Inquisition, p. 95.
- Milman, The History of Christianity, vol. 3, p. 58, note.
- Apollinaris, Espitolae, lib. 1, epistola 2, found in Migne, PatrologiaLatina, vol. 58, p. 448.
Purchas, His Pilgrimes, vol. 1, pp. 355, 356.
- Ibid., vol. 1, p. 350.
- See the author’s discussion in Chapter 15, entitled, “Early WaldensianHeroes,” p. 220, also in Chapter 16, entitled, “The Church of
theWaldenses,”, p. 245.
- Adeney, The Greek and Eastern Churches, p. 306.
- Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, vol. 1, pt. 2 pp. 931, 932.
- Gibbon, Decline
andFall of the Roman Empire, ch. 38, par. 5.
- Newman, A Manual of Church History, vol. 1, p. 404.
- Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, b. 2, cent. 5, pt. 1, ch. 1
,pars. 4, 5.
- Ayer, A Source Book for Ancient Church History, p. 575.
- Church, The Beginning of the Middle Ages, pp. 38, 39.
- Hill, History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 1, p. 55.
- Adams, Civilization During the Middle Ages, pp. 141, 142.
- The Historian’s History of the World, vol. 7, p. 477.
- Sergeant, The Franks, p. 120.
- Milman, History of Latin Christianity, vol. 1, b. 3, ch. 3, par. 2.
- Bower, The History of the Popes, vol. 1, p. 334.
- Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John, pp. 167, 168.
- Gibbon, Decline
andFall of the Roman Empire, ch. 41, par. 11.
- Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, vol. 4, ch. 9, pp. 251, 252.
- Milman, History of Latin Christianity, vol. 1, b. 3, ch. 4, par. 20.
- Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch 47,
- Daniel 7:8, 20; 2 Thessalonians 2:3. See the author’s discussion on the Waldenses in Chapters 15 and 16.
- Revelation 13:3, 5. Since 1260 years added to 538 brings us to 1798, one is led to ask, What were the events clustering about 1798? In that year the pope was taken prisoner by the armies of the French Revolution, the college of cardinals was abolished, and religious liberty was proclaimed in the city of Rome. See the author’s discussion in Chapter 24, entitled, “The Remnant Church Succeeds the Church in the Wilderness.”
- Favyn, Histoire de Navarre, pp. 713-715