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of the Baltic, BURST IN THUNDER upon the banks of the Upper Danube. The PASTURES of Gaul, in which flocks and herds grazed ; and the banks of the Rhine, which were covered with elegant houses and well cultivated farms, formed a scene of peace and plenty, which was suddenly changed into a DESERT, distinguished from THE SOLITUDE OF NATURE only by SMOKING RUINS. Many cities were cruelly oppressed or destroyed. Many thousands were inhumanly massacred. And the CONSUMING FLAMES OF WAR spread over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul.
Alaric again stretched his ravages over Italy. During four years, the Goths ravaged and reigned over it without control. And, in the pillage and FIRE of Rome, the streets of the city WERE FILLED WITH DEAD BODIES; the FLAMÈS CONSUMED MANY public and private buildings; and the ruins of a palace remained, after a century and a half.) a stately monument of the GOTHIC CONFLAGRATION.
The FIRST angel sounded, and there followed HAIL and FIRE, mingled with BLOOD, and they were cast upon the EARTH; and the THIRD PART of TREES WAS BURNT UP, and all green GRASS was BURNT UP.
The concluding sentence of the thirty-third chapter of Gibbon's History, is, of itself, a clear and comprehensive commentary; for, in winding up his own description of the brief, but most eventful period, he concentrates as in a parallel reading, the sum of the history, and the substance of the prediction. But the words which precede it are not without their meaning. “ The public devotion of the age was impatient to exalt the saints and martyrs of the catholic church on the altars of Diana and Hercules. The union of the Roman empire was dissolved ; its genius was humbled in the dust ; and armies of unknown barbarians, issuing from the frozen regions of the north, had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa."
The last word,—Africa,—is the signal for the sounding of the second trumpet. The scene changes from the shores of the Baltic to the southern coast of the Mediterranean, or from the frozen regions of the north to the borders of burning Africa. And instead of a storm of hail being cast upon the earth, a burning mountain was cast into the sea.
AFTER six centuries of tranquillity, undisturbed in Italy by a foreign foe, and of dominion which held the whole world in subjection and awe, the union of the Roman empire was dissolved, on the sounding of the first trumpet; and in the short space of fourteen years, the empire was overspread with hosts of enemies, the transalpine provinces fell, and Rome itself was in the possession of savage and merciless Goths. Alaric died, A. D. 410,—the very year of the sack of Rome. The voice of the first trumpet had been answered and fulfilled. And, in the year 412, the Goths voluntarily retreated from Italy under the conduct of his successor Adolphus.
"A decent and respectful attention was paid to the capital ; the citizens were encouraged to rebuild the edifices which had been destroyed or damaged by hostile fire; and extraordinary supplies of corn were imported from the coast of Africa. The crowds that so lately fled before the sword of the barbarians were soon recalled by the hopes of plenty and pleasure; and Albinus, prefect of Rome, informed the court, with some anxiety and surprise, that in a single day, he had taken an account of the arrival of fourteen thousand strangers. In less than seven years, the vestiges of the Gothic invasion were almost obliterated ; and the city appeared to resume its former splendour and tranquillity. The venerable matron replaced her crown of laurel, which had been ruffled by the STORM of war; and was still amused in the last moment of her decay with the prophecies of revenge, of victory, and of eternal dominion."*
* Gibbon's Hist. vol. v. pp. 333, 334. chap. 31.
But other prophecies were written ; and remained to be fulfilled. And the first trumpet was to be succeeded by others.
Africa had hitherto been the granary of Rome, and, in days of peril, the retreat and refuge of the Romans.
" The apparent tranquillity,” continues Gibbon' “ was soon disturbed by the approach of an hostile armament from the country which afforded the daily subsistence of the Ronian people. Heraclian, count of Africa, who, under the most difficult and distressful circumstances, had supported, with active difficulty, the cause of Honorius, was tempted, in the year of his consulship, to assume the character of a rebel and the title of an emperor. The ports of Africa were immediately filled with the naval forces, at the head of which he prepared to invade Italy; and his fleet, when he cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber, indeed surpassed the fleets of Xerxes and Alexander, if all the vessels, including the royal galley and the smallest boat, did actually amount to the incredible number of three thousand two hundred. Yet with such an armament, which might have subverted or restored the greatest empires of the earth, the African usurper made a very faint and feeble impression on the provinces of his rival.”
The sea began to be agitated, as the earth had before been laid waste; but in none of the stages of its overthrow was Rome destined to fall by internal dissension or revolt ; but every part of the work of destruction was effected by external violence. As the storm of hail and fire was cast upon the earth, so a burning mountain was to be cast into the sea.
About ten months before the sack of Rome by the Goths,
“ The gates of Spain,--the passes of the Pyrenees-were treacherously betrayed to the public enemy. The consciousness of guilt, and the thirst of rapine, prompted the inercenary guards of the Pyrenees to desert their station; to invite the arms of the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Alarici ; and to swell the torrent which was poured with irresistible violence from the frontiers of Gaul to the sea of Africa.”*
In the year 427, Boniface, the governor of Africa, having revolted against the emperor,
“ Despatched a trusty friend to the court, or rather camp, of Gonderic, king of the Vandals, with a proposal of a strict alliance, and the offer of an advantageous and perpetual settlement. The vessels which the Vandals found in the hårbour of Carthagena might easily transport them to the isles of Majorca or Minorca, where the Spanish fugitives, as in a secure recess, had vainly concealed their families and their fortunes. The experience of navigation, and, perhaps, the prospect encouraged the Vandals to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface; and the death of Gonderic served only to forward and animate the bold enterprise. In the room of a prince, not conspicuous for any superior powers of the mind or the body, they acquired his bastard brother, the TERRIBLE GENSERIC ; a name, which, in the DESTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, HAS DESERVED AN EQUAL RANK WITH THE NAMES OF ALARIC AND Attila."*
The historian, having amply illustrated the first trumpet, thus furnishes, or rather holds forth in each hand, a key to the second and the third. After the storm of hail and fire had ceased, the burning mountain was soon seen to arise ; and the terrible Genseric appeared, whose name deserves an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila, in the destruction of the Roman empire; or, in other words, who, as well as they, obeyed the trumpet that summoned each to the separate work of destruction, preparatory to the sounding of the fourth trumpet, or extinction of the western empire.
In the year 429, Genseric, with fifty thousand effective men, landed on the shores of Africa :
« The Vandals, who, in twenty years, had penetrated from the Elbe to Mount Atlas, were united under the command of their warlike king, and he reigned with equal authority over the Alarici, who had passed within the term of human life, from the cold of Scythia to the excessive heat of an African climate.”