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it almost wholly depended, arrested the gratuitous distribution by which the Roman poor were mainly supported, and produced all over the land the most appalling calamities. The history of Italy became one monotonous tale of famine and pestilence, of starving populations and ruined cities. But everywhere amid this chaos of dissolution we may detect the majestic form of the Christian priest mediating between the hostile forces, straining every nerve to lighten the calamities around him. When the Imperial city was captured and plundered by the hosts of Alaric, a Christian church remained a secure sanctuary, which neither the passions nor the avarice of the Goths transgressed. When a fiercer than Alaric had marked out Rome for his prey, the Pope St. Leo, arrayed in his sacerdotal robes, confronted the victorious Hun, as the ambassador of his fellow-countrymen, and Attila, overpowered by religious awe, turned aside in his course. When, twelve years later, Rome lay at the mercy of Genseric, the same Pope interposed with the Vandal conqueror, and obtained from him a partial cessation of the massacre. The Archdeacon Pelagius interceded with similar humanity and similar success, when Rome had been captured by Totila. In Gaul, Troyes is said to have been saved from destruction by the influence of St. Lupus, and Orleans by the influence of St. Agnan. In Britain an invasion of the Picts was averted by St. Germain of Auxerrois. The relations of rulers to their subjects, and of tribunals to the poor, were modified by the same intervention. When Antioch was threatened with destruction on account of its rebellion against Theodosius, the anchorites poured forth from the neighboring deserts to intercede with the ministers of the emperor, while the Archbishop Flavian went himself as a suppliant to Rome. St. Ambrose imposed public penance on Theodosius, on account of the massacre of Thessalonica. Synesius excommunicated for his oppression a governor named Andronicus; and two French Councils, in the sixth century, imposed the same penalty on all great men who arbitrarily ejected the poor. St. Abraham, St. Epiphanius, and St. Basil are all said to have obtained the remission or reduction of oppressive imposts. To provide for the interest of the widows and orphans was part of the ecclesiastical duty, and a Council of Macon anathematized any ruler who brought them to trial without first apprising the bishop of the diocese. A Council of Toledo, in the fifth century, threatened with excommunication all who robbed priests, monks, or poor men, or refused to listen to their expostulations. As time rolled on, charity assumed many forms, and every monastery became a centre from which it radiated. By the monks the nobles were overawed, the poor protected, the sick tended, travellers sheltered, prisoners ransomed, the remotest spheres of suffering explored.
There is no fact of which an historian becomes more speedily or more painfully conscious than the great difference between the importance and the dramatic interest of the subjects he treats. Wars or massacres, the horrors of martyrdom or the splendors of individual prowess, are susceptible of such brilliant coloring, that with but little literary skill they can be so portrayed that their importance is adequately realized, and they appeal to the emotions of the reader. But this vast and unostentatious movement of charity, operating in the village hamlet and in the lonely hospital, staunching the widow's tears, and following all the windings of the poor man's griefs, presents few features the imagination can grasp, and leaves no deep impression upon the mind.
The greatest things are often those which are most imperfectly realized ; and surely no achievements of the Christian Church are more truly great than those which have been effected in the sphere of charity. For the first time in the history of mankind, it has inspired many thousands of men and women, at the sacrifice of all worldly interests, and often under circumstances of extreme discomfort or danger, to devote their entire lives to the single object of assuaging the sufferings of humanity. WILLIAM EDWARD HARTPOLE LECKY,
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH AT THE DOWNFALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
'Twas the solemnest epoch in the lifetime of man—that, when the civilization of two thousand years, unionized into one gigantic fabric by the power of Rome, so that the whole trust and worth of nations was by compulsion made to rest thereon, began visibly to break down. 'Twas the sultriest hour of time. The sweat-drops of terror fell, and made echo in their fall. The loosing of the chariot-steeds of barbarism was heard afar, and men knew not what it meant, for they had never heard the like before. Vague feelings of their helplessness and danger—vague forebodings of unknown evils, overcast their sapless hearts. They had time to fly, but whither? They had hands and brains, but the hands were nerveless, and “the formidable pilum, which had subdued the world, dropt from them,”—the brains were crammed full of controversial logic, so that there was no room in them for manly thoughts. Men had been bent and bowed for centuries to believe the lie, that one