The Character of the Invaders

Excerpted from Truth Triumphant, by Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1944, pp. 144-146

To the surprise of all, the Goths had been 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….

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, reverencing and 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 orthodox Church were angrily resented.1     

The following words from Thomas Hodgkin show how superior were these invading hosts to the corrupt condition of the state church in northern Africa, when the Vandals who also refused Rome’s state-prescribed doctrines seized the homeland of Tertullian and Cyprian:

           Augustine had said: “I came from my native town to Carthage, and everywhere around me roared the furnace of unholy love…. 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 greed they 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.2

1 Adeney, The Greek and Eastern Churches, page 306
2 Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, vol. 1, pt. 2, pp. 931, 932.