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§ 3. The Nations of Mediaeval Christianity. The Kelt, the Teuton, and the Slav.


The new national forces which now enter upon the arena of church-history may be divided into four groups:

1. The Romanic or Latin nations of Southern Europe, including the Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and French. They are the natural descendants and heirs of the old Roman nationality and Latin Christianity, yet mixed with the new Keltic and Germanic forces. Their languages are all derived from the Latin; they inherited Roman laws and customs, and adhered to the Roman See as the centre of their ecclesiastical organization; they carried Christianity to the advancing barbarians, and by their superior civilization gave laws to the conquerors. They still adhere, with their descendants in Central and South America, to the Roman Catholic Church.

2. The Keltic race, embracing the Gauls, old Britons, the Picts and Scots, the Welsh and Irish with their numerous emigrants in all the large cities of Great Britain and the United States, appear in history several hundred years before Christ, as the first light wave of the vast Aryan migration from the mysterious bowels of Asia, which swept to the borders of the extreme West.22    κελτοίor Κέλται, Celtae, Γαλάται, Galatae or Galati, Galli, Gael. Some derive it from celt, a cover, shelter; others from celu (Lat. celo) to conceal. Herodotus first mentions them, as dwelling in the extreme northwest of Europe. On these terms see Diefenbach, Celtica, Brandes, Kelten und Germanen, Thierry, Histoire des Gaulois, the art. Galli in Pauly’s Realencyclopädie, and the introductions to the critical Commentaries on the Galatians by Wieseler and Lightfoot (and Lightfoot’s Excursus I). The Galatians in Asia Minor, to whom Paul addressed his epistle, were a branch of the Keltic race, which either separated from the main current of the westward migration, or, being obstructed by the ocean, retraced their steps, and turned eastward. Wieseler (in his Com. and in several articles in the ”Studien und Kritiken, ” and in the ”Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte,” 1877 No. 1) tries to make them Germans, a view first hinted at by Luther. But the fickleness of the Galatian Christians is characterristic of the ancient Gauls and modern French. The Gauls were conquered by Caesar, but afterwards commingled with the Teutonic Francs, who founded the French monarchy. The Britons were likewise subdued by the Romans, and afterwards driven to Wales and Cornwall by the Anglo-Saxons. The Scotch in the highlands (Gaels) remained Keltic, while in the lowlands they mixed with Saxons and Normans.

The mental characteristics of the Kelts remain unchanged for two thousand years: quick wit, fluent speech, vivacity, sprightliness, impressibility, personal bravery and daring, loyalty to the chief or the clan, but also levity, fickleness, quarrelsomeness and incapacity for self-government. “They shook all empires, but founded none.” The elder Cato says of them: “To two things are the Kelts most attent: to fighting (ars militaris), and to adroitness of speech (argute loqui).” Caesar censures their love of levity and change. The apostle Paul complains of the same weakness. Thierry, their historian, well describes them thus: “Their prominent attributes are personal valor, in which they excel all nations; a frank, impetuous spirit open to every impression; great intelligence, but joined with extreme mobility, deficient perseverance, restlessness under discipline and order, boastfulness and eternal discord, resulting from boundless vanity.” Mommsen quotes this passage, and adds that the Kelts make good soldiers, but bad citizens; that the only order to which they submit is the military, because the severe general discipline relieves them of the heavy burden of individual self-control.33    Römische Geschichte, Vol. I., p. 329, 5th ed., Berlin, 1868.

Keltic Christianity was at first independent of Rome, and even antagonistic to it in certain subordinate rites; but after the Saxon and Norman conquests, it was brought into conformity, and since the Reformation, the Irish have been more attached to the Roman Church than even the Latin races. The French formerly inclined likewise to a liberal Catholicism (called Gallicanism); but they sacrificed the Gallican liberties to the Ultramontanism of the Vatican Council. The Welsh and Scotch, on the contrary, with the exception of a portion of the Highlanders in the North of Scotland, embraced the Protestant Reformation in its Calvinistic rigor, and are among its sternest and most vigorous advocates. The course of the Keltic nations had been anticipated by the Galatians, who first embraced with great readiness and heartiness the independent gospel of St. Paul, but were soon turned away to a Judaizing legalism by false teachers, and then brought back again by Paul to the right path.

3. The Germanic44    The word is of uncertain origin. Some derive it from a Keltic root, garm or gairm, i.e. noise; some from the old German gere(guerre), a pointed weapon, spear or javelin (so that German would mean an armed man, or war-man, Wehrmann); others, from the Persian irman, erman, i.e. guest. or Teutonic55    From the Gothic thiudisco, gentiles, popularis; hence the Latin teutonicus, and the German deutschor teutsch(which may also be connected with diutan, deutsch deutlich). In the English usage, the term German is confined to the Germans proper, and Dutch to the Hollanders; but Germanic and Teutonic apply to all cognate races. nations followed the Keltic migration in successive westward and southward waves, before and after Christ, and spread over Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia, the Baltic provinces of Russia, and, since the Anglo-Saxon invasion, also over England and Scotland and the northern (non-Keltic) part of Ireland. In modern times their descendants peacefully settled the British Provinces and the greater part of North America. The Germanic nations are the fresh, vigorous, promising and advancing races of the middle age and modern times. Their Christianization began in the fourth century, and went on in wholesale style till it was completed in the tenth. The Germans, under their leader Odoacer in 476, deposed Romulus Augustulus—the shadow of old Romulus and Augustus—and overthrew the West Roman Empire, thus fulfilling the old augury of the twelve birds of fate, that Rome was to grow six centuries and to decline six centuries. Wherever they went, they brought destruction to decaying institutions. But with few exceptions, they readily embraced the religion of the conquered Latin provinces, and with childlike docility submitted to its educational power. They were predestinated for Christianity, and Christianity for them. It curbed their warlike passions, regulated their wild force, and developed their nobler instincts, their devotion and fidelity, their respect for woman, their reverence for all family-relations, their love of personal liberty and independence. The Latin church was to them only a school of discipline to prepare them for an age of Christian manhood and independence, which dawned in the sixteenth century. The Protestant Reformation was the emancipation of the Germanic races from the pupilage of mediaeval and legalistic Catholicism.

Tacitus, the great heathen historian, no doubt idealized the barbarous Germans in contrast with the degenerate Romans of his day (as Montaigne and Rousseau painted the savages “in a fit of ill humor against their country”); but he unconsciously prophesied their future greatness, and his prophecy has been more than fulfilled.

4. The Slavonic or Slavic or Slavs66    The term Slav or Slavonian is derived by some from slovo, word, by others, from slava, glory. From it are derived the words slave and slavery (Sclave, esclave), because many Slavs were reduced to a state of slavery or serfdom by their German masters. Webster spells slave instead of slav, and Edward A. Freeman, in his Historical Essays (third series, 1879), defends this spelling on three grounds: 1) No English word ends in v. But many Russian words do, as Kiev, Yaroslav, and some Hebrew grammars use Tav and Vav for Tau and Vau. 2) Analogy. We write Dane, Swede, Pole, not Dan, etc. But the a in Slav has the continental sound, and the tendency is to get rid of mute vowels. 3) The form Slave perpetuates the etymology. But the etymology (slave = δοῦλος) is uncertain, and it is well to distinguish the national name from the ordinary slaves, and thus avoid offence. The Germans also distinguish between Slaven, Sclaven. in the East and North of Europe, including the Bulgarians, Bohemians (Czechs), Moravians, Slovaks, Servians, Croatians, Wends, Poles, and Russians, were mainly converted through Eastern missionaries since the ninth and tenth century. The Eastern Slavs, who are the vast majority, were incorporated with the Greek Church, which became the national religion of Russia, and through this empire acquired a territory almost equal to that of the Roman Church. The western Slavs, the Bohemians and Poles, became subject to the Papacy.

The Slavs, who number in all nearly 80,000,000, occupy a very subordinate position in the history of the middle ages, and are isolated from the main current; but recently, they have begun to develop their resources, and seem to have a great future before them through the commanding political power of Russia in Europe and in Asia. Russia is the bearer of the destinies of Panslavism and of the, Eastern Church.

5. The Greek nationality, which figured so conspicuously in ancient Christianity, maintained its independence down to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453; but it was mixed with Slavonic elements. The Greek Church was much weakened by the inroads of Mohammedanism) and lost the possession of the territories of primitive Christianity, but secured a new and vast missionary field in Russia.



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