The Italians appear to have blamed the British Church for its want of missionary zeal. But that only applied to missions to the Angles and Saxons; and I have never quite been able to see how the Britons could be expected to go to their sanguinary and conquering foes with any message, least of all to tell them that their religion was hopelessly false. The expulsion of the Britons from the land of their fathers was too recent for that; the retort of the Saxons too apposite, that at least their gods had shewn themselves stronger than the God of the Britons.
It is a curious fact that we know more of the work of the British Church beyond its borders than at home; and what we know of it is very much to its credit. Somewhere about the year 395, when the inroads of barbarians from the north had become a grave danger, and the territory between the walls had been abandoned by the Romano-Britons, one of the British nation, who had studied at Rome the doctrine and discipline of the Western Church, and had studied among the Gauls at Tours, established himself among the Picts of Galloway and built there a church of stone. The story is that he heard of the death of his friend Martin of Tours when he was building his church, and that he dedicated it to him. This, which after all is a late story in its present form, but is, as I think, to be fully accepted, gives us the date 397; the only sure date in Ninian's history. From this south-west corner of Scotland he spread the faith, we are told, throughout the southern Picts, that is, as far north as the Grampians.
This Christianising of the Picts may not have been very lasting. Patrick more than once speaks of them as the apostate Picts. It did not prevent their ravaging Christian Britain, denuded of the Roman troops. But it had a great influence in another way. The monastery of Whithorn, which Ninian founded, was for some considerable time the training place of Christian priests and bishops and monks, both for Britain, and, especially, for Ireland. The Irish traditions make Ninian retire from Britain and live the later part of his life in Ireland, where he is certainly commemorated under the name Monenn, -- "Mo" being the affectionate prefix "my," and Monenn meaning "my Ninian."
Ninian lived and worked, we are told, for many years, dying in 432, a date for which there is no known authority. That period covers the second, third, and fourth withdrawal of the Roman troops from the northern frontier and from Britain; a time when British Christians might well have said they had more than enough to do at home. Ninian's work has left for us memorials such as no other part of these islands can shew. There are three great upright stones, one at Whithorn itself, and two at Kirkmadrine, that in all human certainty come from his time. They are in complete accordance with what we know of sepulchral monuments in Roman Gaul. Each has a cross in a circle deeply incised, with the member of an R attached to one limb, so as to form the Chi Rho monogram. The Chi Rho is found as early as 312 in Rome and 377 in Gaul, with Alpha and Omega, 355 in Rome and 400 in Gaul. Hic iacet is found in 365. The stone at Whithorn itself has Petri Apustoli rather rudely carved on it. The two at Kirkmadrine have Latin inscriptions well cut, running apparently from one to the other, as though they had stood at the head and foot of a grave in which the four priests were buried: -- "here lie the chief priests" -- some say that at that time sacerdotes meant bishops -- "that is, Viventius and Mavorius" "[Piu]s and Florentius." One of these latter stones has at the top, above the circle, the Alpha and Omega. I ought to say "had," for some years ago a carriage was seen from a distance to drive up to the end of the lane leading to the desolate burying-place, a man got out, went to the stone, knocked off with a hammer the corner which bore the Omega, and made off with it. They are since then scheduled as ancient monuments. There was formerly a third stone, which bore the very unusual Latin equivalent of Alpha and Omega, initium et finis, "the beginning and the end." These remains in a solitary place may indicate the wealth of very early monuments we must once have had in this island, long ago broken up by men who saw nothing in them but stones. Time would fail if I were to begin to tell of the recent exploration of the cave known by immemorial tradition as Ninian's cave, and of the sculptured treasures of early Christianity found there. There is in this same territory between the walls, but nearer the northern wall, another memorial of the later British times. It is a huge stone a few miles north-west of Edinburgh, with a rude Latin inscription, In this tumulus lies Vetta, son of Victis. It takes us to the time when, along with the Picts and Scots who ravaged Britain, we hear for the first time of allies of the ravagers called Saxons. We are accustomed to think of the Saxons as coming first from the south-east and east; but we hear of them first in this region of which we are speaking. As Vetta and Victis correspond to the names of the father and grandfather of Hengist and Horsa, it is difficult to resist the suggestion that in this great Cat Stane, that is, Battle Stone, we have the monument set up by the Romano-Britons, in triumph over the fallen chief of the Saxon marauders. If this is so, the sons of Vetta found the south of the island better quarters than their father found the north, though Horsa, it is true, was killed soon. A great monument bearing his name was to be seen in Bede's time in Kent, and this fact serves to confirm the assignment of the Cat Stane to another generation of his family.
Ninian affords one of the many evidences of a close connection between Britain and Gaul. We should have been surprised if there had not been this close connection; but somehow or other it has been a good deal overlooked. He dedicated his church to his friend St. Martin of Tours. In the Romano-British times a church at the other end of the island, in Canterbury, had a like dedication; and these are the only Romano-British dedications of which we are sure, so far as I know.
In these dedications we may find an interesting illustration of what took place in Gaul, especially in the parts near Britain. There are eighty-six dioceses in modern France, and there are in all no less than 3,668 churches dedicated to St. Martin. There are eight of the eighty-six dioceses which have more than 100 churches thus dedicated, and all of these eight are in the regions opposite to the shores of Britain. Amiens has 148; Arras 157; Bayeux 107; Beauvais 110; Cambray 122; Coutances 103; Rouen 112; Soissons 158. Here again is an instance which shows Soissons prominent in a British connection. No other diocese has more than eighty-four; and only five others have more than seventy. The Christian poet of the sixth century, writing at Poitiers of St. Martin, declares that the Spaniard, the Moor, the Persian, the Briton, loved him. This order of countries is due only to the exigencies of metre. Gaul is not named, because it was the centre of the cult of St. Martin, and there Fortunatus wrote.
Next in order of time, we must turn to the main home of the Celtic or Gaelic Church, the main centre of its many activities, Ireland. As is very well known, Ireland never formed part of the Roman empire; never came under that iron hand, which left such clear-cut traces of its fingers wherever it fastened its grip. Agricola used to talk of taking possession, about the year 80 A. D., but he never went. He had looked into the question, and he thought the enterprise not at all a serious one, from a military point of view; while, as a matter of policy, he was strongly inclined to it. His son-in-law Tacitus tells us this, in one of those little bursts of confidential talk which obliterate the eighteen centuries that intervene, and make us hear rather than read what he says. "I have often heard Agricola say that with one legion, and a fair amount of auxiliaries, Ireland could be conquered and held; and that it would be a great help, in governing Britain, if the Roman arms were seen in all parts, and freedom were put out of sight." If this means that Ireland could be seen from the parts of Britain of which he was speaking, we must understand that he spoke of the Britons north of the Solway; and we know that after his operations against Anglesey he passed on to subdue the parts of Wigton and Dumfries, and, two years later, Cantyre and Argyll. Those are the parts of this island from which Ireland is easily visible.
Of course we all know that St. Patrick was the Apostle of Ireland. That puts the introduction of Christianity rather late; the date of Patrick's death, which best suits at once the national traditions and the arguments from contemporary events, being A. D.493. Those who feel bound to give him a mission from Pope Celestine put his death in 460, rather than face the difficulty of making him live to be 120 -- or, as some say, 132.
The story of St. Patrick's life is told by many people in many different ways, both in modern times and in ancient. In one of the accounts, known as the Tripartite Life, written in early Irish, we find mention of the existence of Christianity in Ireland before his time. He and his attendants were about to perform divine service in the land of the Ui Oiliolls, when it was found that the sacred vessels were wanting. Patrick, thereupon, divinely instructed, pointed out a cave in which they must dig with great care, lest the glass vessels be broken. They dug up an altar, having at its corners four chalices of glass. Even in the Book of Armagh we find that Patrick shewed to his presbyter a wonderful stone altar on a mountain in this region. This may seem a slight basis on which to found the existence of Christianity before Patrick, but its incidental character gives it importance; and traditions of early times support the conclusion. The whole of an elaborate story of Patrick finding bishops in Munster, and coming to a compromise with them, is a late invention, forged for an ecclesiastical purpose.
There is certainly evidence of an intention to preach Christianity in Ireland before Patrick's time, and this evidence itself affords evidence of a still earlier teaching. In speaking of the visit of Germanus to Britain to put down Pelagianism, the first of two visits as tradition says, I intentionally said nothing about the visit of Germanus's deacon Palladius to Rome. Some writers would not allow the phrases "Germanus's deacon," and "visit to Rome." They say that Palladius was a deacon of Rome; from that he is made archdeacon of the Pope; and from that again a cardinal and Nuncio apostolical. But I shall take him to be the deacon of Germanus, a Gaul by birth and education, though some believe that he must have been himself an Irishman.
The Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine, of which we have heard before, has in the less corrupt of the two editions the statement that in 431 "Palladius was consecrated by Pope Celestine, and sent to the Scots believing in Christ, as their first bishop." The Scots, of course, then and for some centuries later, were the Irish. It is interesting to us to find Pope Leo XIII, in his Bull restoring the Scottish hierarchy in 1878, gravely taking Prosper to mean that Celestine sent Palladius as the apostle of the Scots in the modern sense of the word, that is, the people of what we call Scotland. Fordun, the chronicler of Scotland, came upon the same rock, and was driven by consequence into wild declarations about the work of Palladius in North Britain. Fordun, however, had the disadvantage of not being infallible.
Prosper of Aquitaine is not a person to be implicitly followed, when the subject is the claims and the great deeds of bishops of Rome. There is a fair suspicion that it was he who credited Eleutherus with the mission to Lucius. His very title, Prosper of Aquitaine, reminds us that Aquitaine includes Gascony. He is suspected of being a romancer. With him, as indeed with many of the evidences of the importance of the action of Rome in early times, great caution is necessary.
Remarks of this kind I do not make from choice; they are forced upon me. It is a pleasure of a very real kind to feel grateful; but when people base upon benefits conferred very large demands and claims, one's feelings of gratitude rapidly and permanently take a very different character. A proverb tells us not to look a gift horse in the mouth. But when there is grave doubt whether the horse ever existed, and when an immense price is afterwards demanded for the gift, proverbs of that kind do not appeal to us very strongly. The claims upon us of mediaeval Rome, mischievous as they were absurd, were based on evidence much of which was so fictitious, that we are more than justified in scanning closely the beginnings of any of the evidence. Time after time one is reminded, in looking into these claims, of the retort of a lay ruler, referring to the forged donation by the first Christian Emperor to the bishops of Rome. Asked by the Pope for his authority for the independent position he maintained, "you will find it," he said, "written on the back of the donation of Constantine."
Nor, again, would it disturb me in the least, if convincing evidence were discovered, in favour of much which I think at best doubtful on the evidence as now known. Benefits conferred lay the foundation of gratitude, not of subservience. The descendants, and representatives, of those who conferred them, have in our eyes all the interest attaching to descendants of benefactors. But when the Popes -- say of the Plantagenet times -- on the strength of the past or of the supposed past, lorded it over the English people, and carried out of England, every year, to be spent in no very excellent way in Italy, sums of money that would seem fabulous if it were not that no one at the time contested their accuracy, the English people found them, and frankly told them so, an intolerable nuisance. The demands of the Popes were so ludicrous in their shamelessness, that when one of them was read to the assembled peers, the peers roared with laughter. We might perhaps forget such episodes as these. We might forget the abominations which at times have steeped the Papacy and the infallible Popes in earth's vilest vilenesses. We might dream, some of us did dream, as young men, of drawing nearer to communion with the old centre of the Western Church, while maintaining our doctrinal position. It was always the fault of the Roman more than the Englishman that we had to part. And now, late in time, in our own generation, the Roman has cut himself off from us by an impassable barrier, the declaration of the divine infallibility of the man who is the head of his Church. It is to me one of the saddest sights on the face of the earth, a thoroughly estimable and loveable old man, whom one cannot but venerate, made the mouthpiece of ecclesiastics who are pulling the wires of policy, and declared to be the medium of divinely infallible judgement.
It may well have been that Palladius came to Britain with Germanus, and here heard -- probably from the Britons of the West -- of sparse congregations of Christians scattered about in Ireland; and that he sought authority to visit them, and confirm them in the faith, from some source which the Irish people would not suspect or regard with jealousy. That he had the assent of Germanus we may fairly suppose; that he had the consent and authorisation of Pope Celestine I am quite ready to believe. Pope Celestine, we may remember, was one of the Popes who got into trouble with Africa for persisting in quoting a Sardican Canon as a Canon of Nicaea. He was not likely to hesitate on ecclesiastical grounds when action such as this was proposed to him.
Palladius went, then, about 432, to visit the scattered Irish Christians. There is not a word of his mission being of the same character as that of Germanus to Britain, namely, to attack Pelagianism. He landed in Ireland; and then the several accounts proceed to contradict one another in a very Celtic manner. The two earliest accounts, dating probably not later than 700, agree that the pagan people received him with much hostility. One of the two accounts martyrs him in Ireland; the other says that he did not wish to spend time in a country not his own, and so crossed over to Britain to journey homewards by land, but died in the land of the Britons. Another ancient Irish account says that he founded some churches in Ireland, but was not well received and had to take to the sea; he was driven to North Britain, where he founded the Church of Fordun, "and Pledi is his name there." I found, when visiting Fordun to examine some curious remains there, that its name among the people was "Paldy Parish."
The Scottish accounts make Palladius the founder of Christianity among the Picts in the east of Scotland, Forfarshire and Kincardineshire and thereabouts, Meigle being their capital for a long time. They are silent as to any connection with Ireland. They are without exception late and unauthentic, whatever may be the historical value of the matter which has been imported into them. But all, Scottish and Irish, agree in assigning to the work of Palladius in Ireland either no existence in fact, or at most a short period and a small result. The way was thus left clear for another mission. The man who took up the work made a very different mark upon it.
I shall not discuss the asserted mission from Rome of St. Patrick, for we have his own statements about himself. Palladius was called also Patrick, and to him, not to the greater Patrick, the story of the mission from Rome applies.
Some time after the death of Celestine and the termination of Palladius's work in Ireland, Patrick commenced his missionary labours; and when he died in or about 493, he left Christianity permanently established over a considerable part of the island. That is the great fact for our present purpose, and I shall go into no details. It is a very interesting coincidence that exactly at the period when Christianity was being obliterated in Britain, it was being planted in large areas of Ireland; and that, too, by a Briton. For after all has been said that can be said against the British origin of Patrick, the story remains practically undisturbed.
It is, I think, of great importance to note and bear in mind the fact that Ireland was Christianised just at the time when it was cut off from communication with the civilised world and the Christian Church in Europe. Britain, become a mere arena of internecine strife, the Picts and Scots from the north, and the Jutes and Saxons and Angles from the east and south, obliterating civilisation and Christianity, -- Britain, thus barbarously tortured, was a complete barrier between the infant Church in Ireland and the wholesome lessons and developments which intercourse with the Church on the continent would have naturally given. Patrick, if we are to accept his own statements, was not a man of culture; he was probably very provincial in his knowledge of Christian practices and rites; a rude form of Christian worship and order was likely to be the result of his mission. He was indeed the son of a member of the town council, who was also a deacon, -- it sounds very Scotch: he was the grandson of a priest; his father had a small farm. But he was a native of a rude part of the island. And his bringing up was rude. He was carried off captive to Ireland at the age of sixteen, and kept sheep there for six years, when he escaped to Britain. After some years he determined to take the lessons of Christianity to the people who had made him their slave. The people whom he Christianised were themselves rude; not likely to raise their ecclesiastical conceptions higher than the standard their apostle set; more likely to fall short of that standard. In isolation the infant Church passed on towards fuller growth; developing itself on the lines laid down; accentuating the rudeness of its earliest years; with no example but its own.
And not only was the Irish Church isolated as a Church, its several members were isolated one from another. It was a series of camps of Christianity in a pagan land, of centres of Christian morals in a land of the wildest social disorder. The camps were centred each in itself, like a city closely invested. The monastic life, in the extremest rigour of isolation, was the only life possible for the Christian, under the social and religious conditions of the time. And each monastic establishment must be complete in itself, with its one chief ruler, its churches, its priests, and the means of keeping up its supply of priests. There was no diocesan bishop, to whom men could be sent to be ordained, or who could be asked to come and ordain. They kept a bishop on the spot in each considerable establishment; to ordain as their circumstances might require; under the rule of the abbat, as all the members were. Very likely in great establishments they had several bishops. The groups of bishops in sevens, named in the Annals, the groups of churches in sevens, as by the sweeping Shannon at Clonmacnois or in the lovely vale of Glendalough, these, we may surmise, matched one another. We read of hundreds of bishops in existence at one time in Ireland, and people put it down to "Irish exaggeration." But given this principle, that an Irish monastery, in a land not as yet divided into dioceses, not possessing district bishops, must have its own bishop, the not unnatural or unfounded explanation of "Irish exaggeration" is not wanted. In some cases, no doubt, a bishop did settle himself at the headquarters of a district, and had a body of priests under his charge, living the monastic life with him under his rule, and exercising ministrations in the district. But in the large number of cases the bishops were only necessary adjuncts to monasteries over which they did not themselves rule. A presbyter or a layman ruled the ordinary monastery, including the bishop or bishops whom the monastery possessed.
I have dwelt upon this because it is a point often lost sight of, and it explains a good deal. And there is a good deal to explain. When Columbanus and his twelve companions from Ireland burst suddenly upon Gaul in the year 590, they formed a very strange apparition. Dressed in a strange garb, tonsured in a strange manner, speaking a strange tongue, but able to converse fluently enough in Latin with those who knew that language, it was found that some of their ecclesiastical customs were as strange as their appearance and their tongue; so strange that the Franks and Burgundians had to call a council to consider how they should be treated. Columbanus was characteristically sure that he was right on all points. He wrote to Boniface IV, about the time when our first St. Paul's was being built, to claim that he should be let alone, should be treated as if he were still in his own Ireland, and not be required to accept the customs of these Gauls. When Irish missionaries began to pass into this island, on its emergence from the darkness that had settled upon it when the pagan barbarians came, their work was of the most self-denying and laborious character. But contact with the Christianity of the Italian mission, or with that of travelled individual churchmen such as Benedict and Wilfrid, revealed the existence of great differences between the insular and the continental type. We rather gather from the ordinary books that these differences came to a head, so far as these islands were concerned, at the synod of Whitby, and that the Irish church not long after accepted the continental forms and practices, and the differences disappeared. But that is not the effect produced by a more extended enquiry. In times a little later than the synod of Whitby, Irish bishops -- I say it with great respect -- were a standing nuisance. One council after another had to take active steps to abate the nuisance. The Danish invasions of Ireland drove them out in swarms, without letters commendatory, for there was no one to give due commendation. Ordination by such persons was time after time declared to be no ordination, on the ground that no one knew whether they had been rightly consecrated. There was in this feeling some misapprehension, it may be, arising from the fact of the government of bishops in a monastery by the presbyter abbat, but no doubt the feeling had a good deal of solid substance to go upon. It was reciprocated, warmly, hotly. Indeed, if I may cast my thought into a form that would be recognised by the people of whom I speak, the reciprocators were the first to begin. Adamnan tells us that when Columba had to deal with an unusually abominable fellow-countryman, he sent him off to do penance in tears and lamentations for twelve years among the Britons. There is the curious -- almost pathetic -- letter of Laurentius and Mellitus, the one Augustine's immediate successor, the other our first bishop of English London, addressed to the bishops and abbats of all Scotia. "They had felt," they said, "great respect for the Britons and the Scots, on account of their sanctity. But," they pointedly remark, evidently smarting under some rather trying recollections, "when they came to know the Britons, they supposed the Scots must be superior. Unfortunately, experience had dissipated that hope. Dagan in Britain, and Columban in Gaul, had shewn them that the Scots did not differ from the Britons in their habits. Dagan, a Scotic bishop, had visited Canterbury, and not only would he not take food with them, he would not even eat in the same house."
It is very interesting to find that we can, in these happy days of the careful examination of ancient manuscripts, put a friendlier face upon the relations between the two churches in times not much later than these, and in connection with the very persons here named. In the earliest missal of the Irish church known to be in existence, the famous Stowe Missal, written probably eleven hundred years ago, and for the last eight hundred years contained in the silver case made for it by order of a son of Brian Boroimhe, there is of course a list -- it is a very long list -- of those for whom intercessory prayers were offered. In the earliest part of the list there are entered the names of Laurentius, Mellitus, and Justus, the second, third, and fourth archbishops of Canterbury, and then, with only one name between, comes Dagan. The presence of these Italian names in the list does great credit to the kindliness of the Celtic monks, as the marked absence of Augustine's name testifies to their appreciation of his character. Many criticisms on his conduct have appeared; I do not know of any that can compare in first-hand interest, and discriminating severity, with this omission of his name and inclusion of his successors' names in the earliest Irish missal which we possess. It is so early that it contains a prayer that the chieftain who had built them their church might be converted from idolatry. Dagan, who had refused to sit at table with Laurentius and Mellitus, reposed along with them on the Holy Table for many centuries in this forgiving list.
Of a similar feeling on the part of the Britons, when isolated in Wales, Aldhelm of Malmesbury had a piteous tale to tell, soon after 700. "The people on the other side the Severn had such a horror of communication with the West Saxon Christians that they would not pray in the same church with them or sit at the same table. If a Saxon left anything at a meal, the Briton threw it to dogs and swine. Before a Briton would condescend to use a dish or a bottle that had been used by a Saxon, it must be rubbed with sand or purified with fire. The Briton would not give the Saxon the salutation or the kiss of peace. If a Saxon went to live across the Severn, the Britons would hold no communication with him till he had been made to endure a penance of forty days." There is quite a modern air about this pitiful tale of love lost between the Celt and the Saxon. Matthew of Westminster, writing in the fourteenth century, carries the hostility down to his time, in words which leave us in no doubt as to their sincerity. "Those who fled to Wales have never to this day ceased their hatred of the Angles. They sally forth from their mountains like mice from caverns, and will take no ransom from a captive save his head."
Another result of the consideration, which I have suggested, of the date and manner of the Christianising of Ireland, is the probability that the Irish Church and the remains of the British Church had some not inconsiderable differences of practice. This is a point which it would be well worth while to examine closely, but we cannot do it now. Laurentius and Mellitus at first supposed that the Britons and the Scots were the same in their habits; then they supposed that they must be different; then they found they were the same. But this was the habit of hostility to the Italian mission in England, and that can scarcely be classed among religious practices. It is too much assumed that the British Church and the Celtic Church were the same in their differences from the Church of the continent. To take one most important point, while they differed from the Church Catholic in their computation of Easter, they differed from each other in the basis of their computation. The British Church used the cycle of years arranged by Sulpicius Severus, the disciple of Martin of Tours, about 410, no doubt introduced to Britain by Germanus; the Irish Church used the earlier cycle of Anatolius, a Bishop of Laodicea in the third century. The Council of Arles, in 314, had found that the West, Britain included, was unanimous in its computation of Easter, and Nicaea, in 325, settled the question in the same sense. Then came the cycle of 410, of which the British were aware, and not the Irish. Then came another, in this way. Hilary, Archdeacon and afterwards Bishop of Rome, wrote in 457 to Victorius of Aquitaine to consult him about the Paschal cycle. The result was the calculation of a new cycle, which was authorised by the Council of Orleans in 541. It was this newer cycle of which the British Church was found to be ignorant, and their ignorance of it is eloquent proof of the isolation into which the ravages of the invading English had driven them. One of the indications of difference between the Irish and the British Church is rather amusing. When the Irish had conformed to Roman customs, well on in the seventh century, they solemnly rebuked the Britons of Wales for cutting themselves off from the Western Church.
We are not to suppose that the only intercourse with Ireland was through Britain by way of the English Channel. The south of Ireland, at least, was in direct communication with the north-western part of France by sea. When a province of the Third Lyonese was formed, with Tours as its capital, in 394, its area including Britany and the parts south of that, Martin was still Bishop of Tours, and he became the metropolitan. He at once sent into Britany the monasticism which he had founded in Gaul, and it passed thence direct to the south-west corner of Wales. Thence it passed to Ireland. We hear of a ship at Nantes, ready to sail to Ireland. And in Columba's time, when the Saint was telling them of an accident that was at that moment happening in Istria, he assured them that in the course of time Gallican sailors would come and bring the news. This double contact must be kept in mind, when we find the south of Ireland different in Christian tone and temper from the north. It would seem that there were race-differences too, but on that I must not enter.
I am not clear that the Irish Church, as such, had anything to do with missionary enterprise among our pagan English ancestors. Columbanus merely passed through Britain, on his way to do a much more widely-extended missionary work in Gaul than Augustine, his contemporary, did in England. But it is a very different matter when we come to the great off-shoot from the Irish Church, the vigorous Church whose centre was the island of Hii, its moving spirit St. Columba. Iona -- to adopt the familiar blunder which makes a u into an n in a name all vowels -- Iona did indeed pay back with a generous hand all and more than all that Ireland had owed to Britain.
It was in 563 that St. Columba crossed over from Ireland to north Britain, with the wonted twelve companions. He established himself in the island of Hii, the Iouan island, now called Iona. In 565 he went to the mainland, crossed the central ridge of mountains, and made his way to the residence of the king of the northern Picts, near "the long lake of the river Ness," not far from Inverness. Here he found much the same kind of paganism as Patrick had found in Ireland. The king's priests and wise men, here as in Ireland, went by the name of Druids, Magi in Latin, and professed to have influence with the powers of nature. Here he worked for some nine or ten years with great success, beginning with the defeat of the Druids in their attempt to prevent his coming, followed soon after by the baptism of the king, who appears to have been a monarch of great power and wide rule. Then Columba devoted himself to his island monastery; and it grew under his hands and those of his immediate successors, till its fame reached all lands. Columba died in 597, the very year in which Ethelbert was converted to Christianity. Thirty-seven years after Columba's death, his successors did that for the Northumbrian Angles which the successors of Augustine had failed to do.
We shall make a very great mistake if we ridicule or under-rate the power of the pagan priests, to whom these stories make reference. Classical mythology treats the gods of Greece and Rome as intensely important beings: and their priests were dominant. We must assign a like position to the gods and the priests of our pagan predecessors. When Apollo was consulted in Diocletian's presence, an answer was given in a hollow voice, not by the priest, but by Apollo himself, that the oracles were restrained from answering truly; and the priests said this pointed to the Christians. And when the entrails of victims were examined in augury on another of Diocletian's expeditions, and found not to present the wonted marks, the chief soothsayer declared that the presence of Christians caused the failure. Just such scenes were enacted, with at least as much of tragic earnestness, when Patrick worsted the Druid Lochra in the hall of Tara, or when Columba baffled the devices of Broichan, the arch-Druid of Brude, the Pictish king.
While Columba was doing his great work, Christianity was re-established by a British king in a part of Britain where it had been obliterated by pagan Britons, that is, in the territory called Cumbria, extending southwards from Dumbarton on the Clyde and including our Cumberland. The king was a Christian; and the question whether Cumbria should be Christian or pagan was brought to the arbitration of battle. The great fight of Ardderyd, a few miles north of Carlisle, gave it for Christianity in 573, twenty years before the period to which our attention is mainly drawn. Kentigern, a native of the territory between the walls, became the apostle of Cumbria. His mother was Teneu, or Tenoc, and in these railway days she has re-appeared in a strange guise. From St. Tenoc she has become St. Enoch, and has given that name to the great railway station in Glasgow, much to the puzzlement of travellers, who ask when the Old Testament Enoch was sainted by the Scotch. The establishment of Christianity in this kingdom of Cumbria is said by the Welsh records to have had a great result. They claim that the first conversion of the northern section of the Northumbrian Angles, before their relapse, was due to a missionary who was of the royal family of Cumbria; indeed they appear to assert that Edwin of Northumbria himself was baptised by this missionary, Rum, or Run, son of Urbgen or Urien.
It seems probable that the districts of Britain which we call Wales had in Romano-British times only one bishopric, that of Caerleon-on-Usk, near Newport, in Monmouthshire. But as soon as light is seen in the country again, after the darkness which followed the departure of the Romans, we find a number of diocesan sees. The influx of bishops and their flocks from the east of the island no doubt had something to do with this, as had also the territorial re-arrangements under British princes. The secular divisions probably decided the ecclesiastical. Bangor, St. Asaph, St. David's, Llanbadarn, Llandaff, and Llanafanfawr, are the sees of which we have mention, founded by Daniel, Asaph, David, Paternus, Dubricius, and Afan. The deaths of these founders date from 584 to 601, so far as the dates are known. Llanafanfawr was merged in Llanbadarn, and that again in St. David's. These dates correspond well with the traditional dates of the final flight of Christian Britons to Wales, under the pressure of Saxon conquest. We may, I think, fairly regard this as the remodelling of the British Church, which once had covered the greater part of the island, in the narrow corner into which it had now been driven. It is to Bangor, St. Asaph, St. David's, and Llandaff, that we are to look, if we wish to see the ecclesiastical descendants of Restitutus and Eborius and Adelfius, who in 314 ruled the British Church in those parts of the island which we call England and Wales, with their seats or sees at London, York, and Caerleon.
When we come to consider the flight of the Christian Britons before the Saxon invaders, it is worth while to consider how far Christianity really had occupied the land generally, even at the date of its highest development. The Britons were rather sturdy in their paganism. Their Galatian kinsfolk were pagans still in the fourth century, to a large extent. Their kinsfolk in Gaul were pagans to a large extent as late as 350. It seems to me not improbable that a good many of the Britons stayed behind when the Christian Britons fled before the heathen Saxons; and that the flocks whom British bishops led to places of safety, in Britany and the mountains of Britain, may have been not very numerous. If on the whole the fugitives were chiefly from the municipal centres, places so completely destroyed as their ruins prove them to have been, the few Christians left in the country places would easily relapse. But they would retain the Christian tradition; and from them or their children would come such information as that which enabled Wilfrid to identify, and recover for Christ, the sacred places of British Christianity.
We should, I think, make a serious mistake if we supposed that the British Church in Cornwall and Devon was originally formed by fugitives from other parts of the island. The monuments seem to shew that Christianity was established there as well as in other parts of Britain in Romano-British times. Such monuments as we find there and in Wales do not exist in other parts of the island where the British Church existed; and it is an interesting and important question, is that because these parts were unlike the other parts, or is it because in other parts the processes of agriculture and building have broken up the old stones with their rude inscriptions? We now and then come across a warning that the total absence of monumental remains in a place may not mean that there never were any. Many of you would say with confidence that we certainly have not monumental remains from the original cathedral church of St. Paul's, built in the first years of Christianity and burned after the Conquest. But we have. They found some years ago a Danish headstone, with a runic inscription of the date of Canute, twenty feet below the present surface of the churchyard. You can see it in the Guildhall Library, or a cast of it in our library here. I have no doubt there are many such, if we could dig.
But it is of course impossible here to enter upon the evidence of the monumental inscriptions. They deserve courses of lectures to themselves. I may say that the language of the inscriptions connected with the British Church is Latin, while in Ireland the vernacular is used, quite simply at the great monastic centres of Clonmacnois and Monasterboice; markedly Latinised at Lismore, the place of study of the south. In Cornwall the inscriptions are mostly very curt, just "A, son of B," all in the genitive case, meaning "the monument of A, who was son of B." In Wales they are many of them much longer, and some of them in exceedingly bad Latin, certainly not ecclesiastical Latin, almost certainly Latin such as the Romano-Britons may have talked: "Senacus the presbyter lies here, cum multitudinem fratrum;" "Carausius lies here, in hoc congeries lapidum." One of the British inscriptions in Wales is charmingly characteristic of the modesty of the race: "Cataman the king lies here, the wisest and most thought-of of all kings." Cataman, by the way, is identified with Cadfan, and Cadfan in his lifetime told the Abbat of Bangor his mind in very Celtic style as follows (evidently he made a point of living up to his epitaph): "If the Cymry believe all that Rome believes, that is as strong a reason for Rome obeying us, as for us obeying Rome."
The question of the inscriptions is complicated by a very remarkable phenomenon. There are in South Wales, at its western part, a large number of what are called Ogam inscriptions, and in Devon there are one or two. In the south of Ireland there are large numbers. Outside these islands no such thing is known in the whole world. The language is early Gaelic, that is, the monuments belong to the Celtic, not to the British people. The formula is "(the monument) of A, son of B." In Wales the Ogam is frequently accompanied by a boldly cut Latin inscription to the same effect, with just such differences as help to shew us how the Ogam cutters pronounced their letters. My own explanation of the Ogam system is that it represents the signs made with the fingers in cryptic speech, used as very simple for cutting on stone when the need for mystery was at an end, that is to say, in all probability, when Druidism was just dying out, and the practice of committing nothing to writing had ceased to be a religious observance. I merely mention these things to add another to the many varied and interesting problems which are forced upon us by a consideration of our fore-elder, the British Church.
It is time to draw towards a conclusion of this hasty scramble over a full field.
If any one asks, where is the old Irish Church now? Dr. Todd, in his Life of St. Patrick (1864), gives in effect the following answer: 'The Danish bishops of Waterford and Dublin in the eleventh century entirely ignored the Irish Church and the successors of St. Patrick; they received consecration from the see of Canterbury; and from that time there were two Churches in Ireland. Then, the Anglo-Norman settlers of the twelfth century ignored the native bishops, on very high authority. Pope Adrian the Fourth, who was himself an Englishman, claimed possession of Ireland under the supposed donation of Constantine, as being an island. He gave it to Henry the Second, charging him to convert to the true Christian faith the ignorant and uncivilised tribes who inhabited it, and to exterminate the nurseries of vices, and -- with an eye to business -- to pay to St. Peter a penny in every year for every house in the country. It is clear that there was to be no recognition of the old Irish Church. In 1367 the Irish Parliament at Kilkenny enacted the famous Statute of Kilkenny. It was made penal to present any Irishman to an ecclesiastical benefice, and penal for any religious house within the English pale to receive any Irishman to their profession. Three archbishops and five bishops were to excommunicate all who violated the act. These prelates were all appointed by papal provision; some were consecrated at Avignon; their names tell the old story, Galatian biting Galatian, Celt devouring Celt. There were among the excommunicators an O'Carroll, an O'Grada, and an O'Cormacan. And so it came that when the Anglo-Irish Church accepted the Reformation, the old Irish Church was extinct.' My next sentence is quoted exactly from Dr. Todd. "Missionary bishops and priests, therefore, ordained abroad, were sent into Ireland to support the interests of Rome; and from them is derived a third Church, in close communion with the see of Rome, which has now assumed the forms and dimensions of a national established religion."
If any one asks, where is the old Scottish Church now? Dr. Skene in his Celtic Scotland gives in effect the following answer. 'The old Scottish Church was a monastic system. It worked well as long as the ecclesiastical character of the monasteries was preserved. But the assimilation to Rome introduced secular clergy, side by side with the monastic clergy, and this ended in the establishment of a parochial system and a diocesan episcopacy, which still further isolated the old church in its monasteries. Then the monasteries themselves fell into the hands of lay abbats, who held them as hereditary property, and they ceased to be ecclesiastical establishments. These changes occupied the earlier part of the twelfth century. About the middle of that century the Culdees, the sole remaining representatives of the old order of clergy, were absorbed into the cathedral chapters by being made regular canons; and thus the last remains of the old Scottish Church disappeared.' This was chiefly done in David's reign.
The old Cumbrian Church, that is, the Church of the Britons of Strathclyde, of which we have spoken under Ninian and Kentigern, had all but disappeared in the times of confusion and revolution which began with the Danish invasions. The same David who as king brought the old Scottish Church to an end, as earl had reconstituted Kentigern's diocese. The Culdees who had once formed the chapter had quite disappeared, and absorption was unnecessary. Glasgow had given to it in 1147 the decanal constitution of Salisbury, by Bishop Herbert, consecrated by the Pope at Auxerre. About 1133 Whithorn was reconstituted a bishopric, as suffragan to York; and Carlisle was made a bishopric, as suffragan to York. Other parts had gone before. Thus all vestiges of the old British Church of Cumbria had entirely disappeared before 1150.
The old British Church in Cornwall and Devon came to an end in this way. In 884 King Alfred formed in Devonshire a West-Saxon see, and made Asser the Saxon Bishop. Cornwall was made to undergo several changes, and at last, in 1050, was merged in the see of Exeter. It is a matter of very great difficulty to approach to a determination as to where the British see of Cornwall, or of Cornwall and Devon, really was, -- or the sees, if there were more than one. All record has perished.
If any one asks, where is the old British Church of what is now England? the answer is very different. The old Church is living still. The Bishops of the four dioceses of Wales rule it still. There is a curious irony in the historical contrast between 594 and 1894, in calling attention to which I make and mean no political remark. Political remarks in this place, on this occasion, from one who could not if he would, and would not if he could, dissociate himself from membership of a corporate body, with the reticence which that position sometimes enjoins, and who hopes that his audience is very far from being composed of persons of one set of political views only, political remarks would be merely offensive. The contrast is this. In 594, the Christian bishops of Britain had fled before the pagan English and established themselves in Wales, where they gradually gathered endowments for their holy purposes. In 1894, it is a question of the day whether the Christian English will disestablish them and assign their endowments to purposes less holy.
The old British Church of what is now Wales of course exists still in Wales, with a history quite unbroken from the earliest centuries. If we must specially localise it, St. David's probably is its most direct representative. But it is not possible to draw any clear line between the representatives of the Church in Wales before the English occupation of Britain, and the present representatives of those who fled to Wales to escape from the pagan English.
Just one or two remarks on peculiarities of the Church in Britain.
I have spoken of the writings of Fastidius and Gildas, and have accepted as genuine the writings ascribed to St. Patrick. In all of these we find quotations from the Scripture, and they tell us what is very interesting about the version from which they quote. A hundred or a thousand years hence it will be quite easy for those who read -- say -- the sermon delivered at St. Paul's last Sunday afternoon, to determine whether the preacher used the Authorised or the Revised Version. So we can tell with ease whether a writer about 430, or 470, or 570, used Jerome's Vulgate Version, or the earlier and ruder Latin Version which preceded it. Of that ruder version there were many differing editions -- so to call them. Jerome got a number of copies of it, before setting to work, and he found almost as many differing revisions as there were copies.
Now Fastidius, writing about 430, in the time when intercourse with Gaul and Italy was still full, affords clear evidence that he knew, and on occasion used, the Vulgate. But the Vulgate was very new then, and he much more frequently quoted from the older version. Patrick, fifty years later, has indications that he had some slight knowledge of the Vulgate, if indeed these indications be not due to copyists. Instead of advance in knowledge, Patrick's writing shews isolation from the sources of new knowledge. Gildas, on the other hand, 100 years later, but while Britain was all under the heel of the pagan Saxon, and cut off from the Christian world, shews a very clear advance in the use of the newer version, as might be expected from one of the leading men in the great seminary of South Wales. It seems to me that this strengthens the belief that from and after the time of Martin of Tours, South Wales had means of access to continental scholarship by way of Britany, and not through Britain only.
The point of special interest that comes out in all this investigation of the details of differences in quotations, is, that the edition, or recension, of the Old Version, used by British writers, was unlike any now known. It was, so far as we can ascertain, peculiar to themselves.
We learn from Gildas that the British Church had one rite at least peculiar to itself, that of anointing the hands at ordination. The lessons from Holy Scripture, too, used at ordination, were different both from the Gallican and from the Roman use. In the early Anglo-Saxon Church this anointing the hands of deacons, priests, and bishops, was retained; hence it seems probable that other rites at ordination in the early Anglo-Saxon Church, which we cannot trace to any other source, were British. Such were, the prayer at giving the stole to deacons, the delivering the Gospels to deacons, the investing the priests with the stole.
And what of the administration of the Two Sacraments? To their manner of administering the Holy Communion, Augustine did not raise objection. To their Baptism, he did. What, in detail, the objection was, we do not know. It is a very curious fact that the actual words to be used in baptising are omitted in the Stowe Missal, where full directions as to various rites connected with Baptism are given. If we may judge from some correspondence of Gregory at this date with Spain, it was probably a question between single immersion and immersion three times. Gregory, with a freedom of concession in which he more than any one in like position allowed himself, advised the retention of single immersion in Spain, because of the peculiar position of Spain with respect to Arianism. There was, curiously enough, a British bishopric in Spain at that very time.
To speak of the Holy Eucharist, a course of lectures, instead of a sentence in one lecture, might afford space not wholly inadequate. Augustine wrote to Gregory to ask what he was to do, as he found the custom of Masses in the Church of the Gauls (Galliarum) different from the Roman. Gregory replied that whatever seemed to Augustine the most suitable, whether in the Roman use or in that of the Gauls, or in the use of any other Church, that he should adopt; and having thus made a collection of all that seemed best, he should form it into one whole, and establish that among the English. Gregory actually himself added words to the Roman Canon of the Mass, so free did he feel himself to deal with such points. Augustine went so far in this direction of recognising other liturgies, that he told the Britons if they would agree with him about Easter and Baptism, and help him to convert the English, he on his part would tolerate all their other customs, though contrary to his own. Gildas, thirty years before, stated directly that the Britons were contrary to the whole world, and hostile to the Roman custom, both in the Mass and in the tonsure. A very early Irish statement, usually accepted as historical, shews that the British custom of the Mass was different from that which the Irish had from St. Patrick: that this British custom was introduced into Ireland by Bishop David, Gildas, and Docus, the Britons, say about 560; and that from that time till 666 there were different Masses used in Ireland.
The South of Ireland accepted the Roman Easter in 634, and the North in 692; so this date 666 is not unlikely. But it was centuries before the old national rites really died out in Ireland. Malachy, the great Romaniser, Bishop of Armagh 1134-1148, was the first Irish bishop to wear the Roman pallium. He established in all his churches the customs of the Roman Church.
It may be as well to state approximately the dates at which differences of practice disappeared in the several parts of our own island.
The English of Northumbria abandoned the insular Easter in 664.
The Britons of Strathclyde conformed to the English usages in 688; the first British bishop to conform in that district was present at a Council at Rome in 721, where he signs himself "Sedulius, a bishop of Britain, by race a Scot."
Pictish Scotland, and also Iona, adopted the Catholic rites between 710 and 717.
The Britons of North Wales did not conform to the usages adopted by the Anglo-Saxon Church till 768; those of South Wales till 777.
My object in these last cursory remarks has not been, I really need not say, to convey information in detail on the difficult and intricate points to which I have referred. It has been simply this, to shew how very real, and substantial, and fully equipped, and independent, was the Church existing in all parts of these islands, save only the parts of Britain occupied by the pagan Jutes and Saxons and Angles, at the time when Augustine came; came with his monks from Rome, his interpreters from Gaul. I do not say that there were no pagans left then in parts of Scotland and of Ireland and perhaps of Wales, but the knowledge of the Lord covered the earth, save where the English were.
The impression left on my mind by a study of the face of our islands in the year 594, thirteen hundred years ago, is that of the pause, the hush, which precedes the launch of a great ship. The ship is the Church of England. In the providence of God, all was prepared; Christian forces all around were ready to play their part; unconsciously ready, but ready; passively ready, needing to be called into play. There were obstacles enough, but obstacles removable; obstacles that would be removed. The English had been the first to act. They desired to move. They had called across the narrow sea to the Gauls to come over and help them. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. Once in motion, its own momentum would soon carry the ship beyond the need of the aids that helped it move. Who should touch the spring, and give the initiation of motion?
Far away, in Rome, there was a man with eagle eye, who saw that the moment had come. In wretched health, tried continually by severe physical pain, his own surroundings enough to break down the spirit of any but the strongest of men; with all his sore trials, he was never weary of well doing. He was called upon to rule the Church of Rome at one of the very darkest of its many times of trial. Pestilence was rife; it had carried off his predecessor. Italy was overrun by enemies. The celibate life had for long found so many adherents, that defenders of the country were few; children were not born to fill the gaps of pestilence and war. Husbandry was abandoned. The distress was so great, so universal, that the conviction was held in the highest quarters that those were the fearful sights and great signs heralding the end of the world.
And even more than by these secular troubles was he that then ruled the Roman Church tried by ecclesiastical difficulties. Arianism, so far from being at an end, dominant or threatening wherever the Goths and the Lombards were; and where were they not? Donatism once again raising its head in Africa, and lifting its hands of violence; controversies a hundred and fifty years old, about Nestorianism, breaking into fresh life, threatening fresh divisions of the seamless robe of Christ. He thus described the church he ruled: -- "an old and shattered ship; leaking on all sides; its timbers rotten; shaken by daily storms; sounding of wreck."
He it was that in the midst of trials much as these, his own ship on the point of foundering, touched the spring that launched the English Church. Moving very slowly at first; seriously checked now and again; brought up shivering once and more than once; the forces round it not playing their part with a will; some of them even opposing; it still went on and gathered way. As time went on, it took on board one source of strength that most had stood aloof; for many centuries the British Church has formed part of the ship's company. And still the ship goes gallantly on, gathering way; the Grace of God, we hopefully and humbly believe, sustaining and guiding it; guiding it, through unquiet seas, to the destined haven of eternal peace and rest.
The man who in the providence of God touched the spring, was Gregory, the Bishop of Rome. Let God be thanked for him.
OXFORD: HORACE HART. PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY