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with the exception of Norfolk and Suffolk, “every county from London to Edinburgh has the full gratification of pointing to the ancient Church of Britain as its nursing mother in Christ's holy faith.”—Soames, 68, 69, 101.
To these assertions Dr. Lingard replies :
“ Now the fact is, that these prelates of supposed British origin were bishops of Irish origin ... the only national Church of which Diuma and his successors were members, was the church of Ireland, and that not a single county from London to Edinburgh can point to the ancient Church of Britain as its nursing mother in the faith of Christ, because the British Church of that age on the western coast, refused, through national animosity, to communicate the gospel to the Saxons.”-i., 43, note.
Still Soames is right in maintaining that the Anglo-Saxons were not converted by Roman missionaries. The heralds of salvation who rooted Christianity in most parts of England, were men who were branded by Augustine's party as schismatics. Sixty-three years after his arrival, when all the Saxon kingdoms except Sussex had received the
faith, Wine, bishop of Winchester was the only prelate of the Roman communion in the island. “ What then became of the boasted successors of Augustine and Laurentius ? Does it not appear evident, that notwithstanding the pompous mission of Augustine, Christianity was kept alive by means of the Scots and Britons, even in England, among the Anglo-Saxons ? So little did God bless the labours of the boasted apostle of England ! But God raised up other men, more worthy than he and his agents, to diffuse religion through England.”Hughes's Horæ Britannicæ, vol. ii. p. 318.
Honour to whom honour is due. It were ungrateful in British Christians to forget the labours of such men. The claim of Augustine to be the apostle of England was the height of presumption. The Christianity of Britain prior to his mission, says the able author of the Religion of Ancient Britain, “is attested by the entire authentic history of the period. It is evinced in every part of the western coast of the island, from the north of Scotland to the Land's End. It is proclaimed by the mouldering ruins of Iona, and by the monuments to the memory of her missionary monks found in every neighbouring land. Its records are written on the hills of Wales, and on the rocks of Cornwall. The names of our headlands and harbours, our towns and villages, our sepulchral monuments and churches, unite with the trumpetvoice of imperishable tradition, to attest the great fact, that even during the fullest triumph of Saxon paganism in England, Christianity continued to shed its pure and hallowing influence over a large portion of the western part of the island.”—Smith's Religion of Ancient Britain, p. 301.
Another writer says, “It is remarkable that while the barbarous valour of the northern heathens was trampling into the dust the disjointed and enervated remains of Roman greatness, and thus placing in peril the very existence of Christianity through a great part of Europe; Ireland, which had but recently received the faith, should have been so faithful to the letter and spirit of its teaching, as to have furnished an innumerable band of devoted labourers, ready to rush into every open door, to enlighten the benighted, to correct the erring, to muse into diligence the lukewarm, and thus to diffuse a leaven of truth and righteousness through all western Britain. We meet with some of them (the Irish,) in every country of Europe, and
their learning and sanctity always procured them honour. The number of them that went to France, Italy, and other foreign countries was so great, that the Bollandine writers observe, that all saints whose origin could not afterwards be traced, were supposed to have come from Ireland or Scotland. The zeal of the monks of Iona in disseminating knowledge and true religion in those dark ages is indeed astonishing. . The account which Bede gives of Columen and other divines that went from Hii to England is interesting and curious. They instructed a certain nunber of youth: Aidan had charge of twelve. They lived in the most plain and frugal manner, supporting themselves by the labour of their hands, &c. Bede adds, that they brought religion into such repute, that a clergyman or monk was everywhere received with joy as a servant of God; that when they travelled the road, people ran to them to get their blessing; and that when they went to any village, which they did only when they had occasion to preach, baptize, or visit the sick, crowds gathered to hear them. In short, says he, the cure of souls was their great concern.”—Dr. Smith's Life of Columba, p. 56.
Dr. Lingard himself makes some striking statements on this subject. For instance
“ The monasteries of Ireland and the Western Isles were filled at this period with men whose well-earned reputation was acknowledged by the other Christian nations of Europe. The praise of their virtue and learning had been the favourite theme of Aidan, Finan, and Columen, the first bishops of Lindisfarne: the approbation of these prelates awakened the curiosity of their disciples, and the desire of improvement induced a crowd of noble youths to cross the sea and attend the lessons of these foreign masters. In Ireland the hospitality of the natives gained the affection of the strangers, and the advantages which they enjoyed attached them to their voluntary exile.—*. 329.
Between the Scots of this period and the Britons there was the most friendly feeling and the most intimate fellowship. They were one in faith, in worship, and in attachment to the same
primitive customs. Till the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, the Pope had no jurisdiction over the Irish. And the whole story of Augustine's mission furnishes the most convincing evidence that the British Churches had been equally independent. If a Roman hierarchy had been established among them, who was their archbishop or metropolitan? Why did not Augustine communicate with him on the affairs of the Church? Why was not he held accountable for the schismatical customs which notoriously prevailed? When Augustine in his ambitious presumption thought of meddling with the Gallic bishops, Gregory checked him in the following words :-
“ Over the bishops of Gaul we have given to you no authority. From the ancient times of our predecessors the Bishop of Arles has received the pallium, and we ought not to deprive him of his authority. If you discover anything reprehensible in the conduct of the Gallic bishops, it will be your duty to advise the Bishop of Arles respecting the best manner of reforming it, &c. But authority, whenever it is to be employed, must proceed from him, that we may not subvert the order established by our fathers. But with respect to the bishops of Britain we commit them all to your brotherhood, &c.—Bed. i. c. 27.
Is it not manifest from this that there had been no man in Britain occupying a position similar to that of the Bishop of Arles ? Not one of the British bishops had received the Pallium ; and as this is the badge of the Pope's delegated authority, and of subjection to his jurisdiction, this very correspondence with the Italian monk, whom he had sent over here, demonstrates that he was now attempting for the first time to stretch his crozier over an independent Church.
The hypocritical pretext for this usurpation was, that the clergy and people of Britain were shockingly depraved, and needed a radical reform. Well, let us see the charges made against them by Augustine when he met some of their number under the protection of the most powerful of their enemies, after travelling across the island through nations of pagans, in order to effect the subjugation of the free ministers of Jesus Christ. Of what heretical pravity were they guilty? By what moral abominations were their lives scandalized ? The reforms required by the Pope's agent will supply an answer to these questions.
“ He determined,” says Lingard, “ to reduce his demands to three heads,—that the Britons should celebrate the feast of Easter at the same time with other Christians; that they should complete the administration of baptism after the Roman manner; and should join with him in preaching the Gospel to the Saxons.”—i. 69.
The head and front of their offending, then, the heinousness of their depravity, consisted in this. They differed with Rome
as to the time of observing Easter; they knew nothing of confirmation, or rejected the unscriptural rite ; and they declined preaching to the murderers of their parents and the inheritors of their plundered property. In any or all of these they may have been in error, but surely that were no reason why a stranger should come and trample on their Scriptural and national rights.
Another cause of difference, and not the least fiercely contested, was the mode of cutting that senseless badge of monkery, the ecclesiastical tonsure, one party wearing it round and the other semicircular:
“ Each party was surprised and shocked at the uncanonical appearance of the other. The Romans asserted that their tonsure had descended to them from the prince of the apostles, while that of their adversaries was the distinguishing mark of Simon Magus and his disciples.”
But Dr. Lingard assures us, that “their arguments served only to prove their ignorance of ecclesiastical history.” If so, why did not the Pope set them right? He adds, “ During the first three or four hundred years of the Christian era, the clergy were not distinguished from the laity by any peculiar method of clipping the hair. The tonsure, properly so called, originated from the piety of the first professors of the monastic institute.” In consequence of distinguished monks being drawn from their cells and elevated to the Episcopal rank, “ the tonsure began to be considered, both in the Greek and Latin Church, as a necessary rite for admission into the number of ecclesiastics.” i. 55.
The nature of the conversions effected by the Roman Missionaries may be inferred from their mode of procedure, which showed very little of the apostolic spirit.
“ The primitive Christians braved, with unconquerable courage, the menaces and power of the Pagan world ; but in the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, we shall seek in vain for a missionary who ventured to preach in opposition to the civil power. The despondency of the Bishops of Kent and Essex, after the death of their patrons, proves how much they depended for success on the smile or the frown of the monarch. If they neither felt nor provoked the scourge of persecution, they may, at least, claim the merit of pure, active, disinterested virtue.”-i., 42.
We should not wonder, then, when we read of ten thousand marching under the royal banner, to be baptized on Christmas eve. Wholesale baptisms argued little for the Christianity of the converts. Yet it must be owned that many of the bishops laboured hard afterwards to instruct and civilize their disciples, to the best of their knowledge and ability. Still the work was
superficial; the light was faint and evanescent, and scarcely affected the heathen darkness which still covered the masses of the people, who were Christians in name only; or, if there was a flush of prosperity at the beginning—a fit of first love and newborn zeal-it did not last long.
“ After a certain period, the virtues which had so brilliantly illuminated the Aurora of their Church began to disappear; with the extirpation of idolatry, the vigilance and zeal of the bishops were gradually relaxed, and the spirit of devotion which had formerly characterized the monks and clergy, insensibly evaporated in the sunshine of ease and prosperity.”—ii., 217.
Never were wealth and power more greedily grasped by any clergy, nor did they ever prove a greater curse.
With an enormous extent of territory, extorted, in most cases, from superstition, by the terrors of death, the prelates assumed the highest rank as state functionaries, and rivalled kings in the pomps and vanities of this world.
“ The mitre,” says Dr. Lingard, “ frequently became the reward of intrigue and influence. The new bishops were frequently selected from the twelve chaplains of the king, or the clerical favourites of some powerful earl, and the nomination of the monarch was often made to fall on the most ambitious or the least worthy of the applicants.”-i., 95.
It is needless to say that the hierarchy was fashioned after the Roman model; and there is no question that the doctrines which were taught were essentially the same as those held by the Catholics at present. But there were peculiarities, especially relating to the sacraments, which we must briefly notice.
According to our learned Catholic historian, “the regular manner of administering baptism was by immersion, the time, the two eves of Easter and Pentecost.” If an adult, the proselyte descended into the font, the priest depressed his head three times, saying, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” “ and he rose from the water purified from sin.” He was now anointed on the crown with chrism, in the form of a cross, and a white linen cap, called a chrismal, was fastened over his head. If the bishop was present, he was confirmed ; if not, he proceeded immediately to the church to receive the eucharist. The rites of the day, were concluded by his partaking of milk and honey, as a token that he had entered the true land of promise. He was expected to attend church, and communicate daily for a week, when the chrismal was removed. Infants were given to the priest naked, and the whole body was immersed three times. The anointing with chrism, &c. followed, and also the communion, which was administered